Accelerate Physical Therapy

Knee Braces – Are they for Everyone?

Knee braces are not new, as they have been around for a very long time with the massive amount of knee injuries that occur. But, the question is, are they really effective for everyone?

Depending on the actual injury, the treatment can vary including more traditional options such as physical therapy and surgery, or non-traditional options of acupuncture and injections. At times, knee braces are brought into the therapy or at least a part of the discussion for options.

Of course, these therapies should be prescribed and carried out by a professional, even though specialists won’t always agree what the proper treatment for a patient might be every time. This includes whether or not a knee brace, which is designed to provide support and comfort, would be beneficial.

Popularity Adds to the Debate

Due to the popularity of knee braces, physicians and physical therapists often find it difficult when trying to convince certain patients that it might not be beneficial to wear one. It doesn’t take long to spot someone with a knee brace, especially in an athletic setting. However, that doesn’t mean it will be helpful to every patient.

The overall thought is that it offers comfort and support. But, when it comes to preventing further injury, if they were a benefit to everyone, wouldn’t we see all athletes wearing one?

Before getting into the actual pros and cons, let’s take a look at some popular choices of knee braces, and which type of injury or patient would benefit from it.

Knee Brace Options

There are several types of knee braces, and each has its own purpose. Take a look at some popular options:

The Knee Immobilizer or Rehabilitation Brace – This is the short-term option that most professionals will recommend right after surgery or injury. It’s cumbersome, extending from the calf to the upper thigh in order to prevent movement of the injured knee.

  • ACL Brace – With an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, an ACL brace will help prevent excessive rotation and forward movement of the tibia, often used by athletes after surgery. Due to a necessary specific fitting, they cannot be purchased off the shelf.
  • Hinge Brace – This brace helps to prevent the knee from excessive motion to the side, protecting the ligaments within the knee. It often has rigid bars, aligning the side (either side or both) to stabilize the knee and should be ordered by a professional for proper fit.
  • Neoprene Sleeve – A popular option for chronic knee pain is the neoprene sleeve, which provides very little actual support to the knee. The purpose for the sleeve is to retain warmth to the knee area to help reduce pain. It serves a second purpose in compression to help with joint effusion…or, water on the knee.

The above braces are just a few varieties of knee braces that you might encounter if you have a knee injury. However, there are a few cons to wearing a knee brace.

Is a Knee Brace a Good Option for You?

All the pros and cons of wearing a knee brace should be discussed between the patient and the professional, whether it’s a physician or a physical therapist, prior to ordering one. There are a few key points to discuss when determining if you are a candidate for one, and which one will be most beneficial.

You should know that a knee brace should never be in place of proper medical treatment. It’s not a cure. It’s simply a part of the process in healing…just as a cast doesn’t cure the broken bone, but rather help in the process during the setting or other treatments.

Also, a brace can give a sense of false security, possibly indicating you are ready to return to normal activities before you really are ready. When the knee is supported, it could easily mislead you to believe that it’s stronger than it is. This could also lead to long-term use, which is rarely the goal of a knee brace. Wearing the brace longer than it’s designed for, can lead to a weakening of the knee from not getting proper movement and exercise.

Finally, keep in mind, a knee brace is typically designed for short term use, and that if it’s not allowing for proper circulation and movement, it can lead to other ailments.

So, the bottom line is, wearing a brace should be discussed with your professional…not only to know how to use it, but also if you even should be using one. The support it can give when used properly is vital to some injuries. But, it can also be over and improperly used.