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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Knee Pain Brace for You

That pain in your knee limits your ability to work, walk and even do the things you used to. It could be a scary experience but with good strength training, proper activity modification, effective rehabilitation techniques along with the use of the right knee pain brace, your healing process can be accelerated. On a clinical result presented at the American College of Rheumatology 2013 Annual Meeting, Doctor Eric Matteson from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York cited that:

“the biological effects of the brace and pain reduction were significant.”  (source:

Additionally, in an article called Efficacy of Knee Braces and Foot Orthoses in Conservative Management of Knee Osteoarthritis published by Manipal University, it was concluded:

“Results suggest that knee braces and foot orthoses are effective in decreasing pain, joint stiffness, and drug dosage. They also improve proprioception, balance, Kellgren/Lawrence grading, and physical function scores in subjects with various and valgus knee osteoarthritis. “ (source: website)

Although you can easily buy generic knee supports without a doctor’s prescription, knee bracing, specifically for injuries and post-surgery cases, should only be done after a physical therapist or doctor’s recommendation. Such cases need thorough diagnosis and comprehensive management program as the wrong brace may only lead to greater problem and lengthen rehabilitation process. So how do you find the right knee brace for you?

1.   Identify what you are trying to achieve

Why are you getting a knee pain brace in the first place? Is it for protection against injury or as a part of your pain management or rehabilitation process?  If it is post-surgery pain, you will are likely to get recommendation from your doctor to go to a physical therapist for diagnosis and evaluation about the right knee brace for your condition.

2.   Identify the level of pain or injury

Knee injuries are commonly classified in two: acute or chronic. Acute injury involves a bone fracture or tears while chronic injuries are characterized by prolonged pain even if the injury has already been healed. So technically, unrelieved acute pain may lead to chronic pain if persist.

Based on the level of pain you are experiencing, the physiotherapist will diagnose your condition’s level of instability, then prescribe a certain brace type or create a custom fitting according to your evaluation’s results.

Grade 1 instability are commonly recommended with knee braces that don’t have solid parts. These braces provide minimal support and compression, giving warmth to the affected area.

Grade 2 level instabilities are likely to be recommended with knee support that has lightweight plastic or metal materials and sometime additional straps for support to help against sideway movements or twisting.

Grade 3 instabilities are likely to be prescribed with braces that have mental or plastic hinges for tighter compression and better support stability.  Chronic injuries and post-operative cases are usually diagnosed at Grade 3 instability.

3.   Know that braces are made for specific conditions

Generally, there are four main types of knee braces: prophylactic, functional braces, rehabilitative and patellofemoral braces. Propylactic braces are made to protect knees from injuries during intensive activities such as football while functional braces are use to support already injured knees.

Rehabilitative braces are designed to limit the knees from harmful movements after injury or surgery. Patellofemoral brace are use for patellofemoral pain syndrome to help the kneecap move with better flexibility over the joints.

There are many different knee brace types.

Knee sleeves Knee sleeves are commonly use to reduce swelling and as treatment for patellofemoral pain. They are usually made up of padding over the cap, straps and opening for the kneecap. This type of brace provides warmth and compression but does not increase stability.

Knee pads A knee pad is a protection worn around the knee to prevent injury and use by athletes for extended kneeling. Just like knee sleeves, these pads do not provide stability but they work to reduce the risk of injury from intensive sports such as biking, skateboarding or roller skating. Knee pads are usually made with rigid outer shells and additional padding that covers the knees as well as straps which wrap around the legs.

Knee Straps This type of knee support is design to relieve pain from everyday routines or sport activities. They compress the knee joints to reduce pain and correct knee posture. The pressure applied by knee straps helps you feel more comfortable.

Patellar Tracking Orthotic (PTO) PTO is commonly used for pain from patellar instability or mal-tracking. It works to adjust compression applied during activities and aid to relieve pain. PTO is usually recommended for mild chondromalacia, patella dislocation patella tendonitis, patella subluxation, patellofemoral pain syndrome, chronic patellar maltracking, post lateral release and post patellar realignment.

Hinged Knee Support This brace is often prescribed to athletes with ligament damage for protection and to increase stability. Hinge knee support must only be worn upon the advice of an expert. These braces have straps to fit around the knees and metal hinges that help reduce pain. It works best for mild arthritis, cartilage tear or ligament sprains.

Custom Knee Braces Custom knee braces are specifically made for you according to your fitting. The brace you will receive will be based on the diagnoses and examination. Again, though you may already know the types of braces for certain conditions base from information provided above, we must emphasize that the wise choice for getting the right knee brace is by consulting a qualified physical therapists first.

4.   Go to a physiotherapist

The use of a knee pain brace will target your strength, flexibility, balance, and range in motion. Choosing the right knee brace is very essential and this is when the help of a physical therapist comes in.

We take a “big picture” approach to help you achieve optimal results. Our physical therapists will not only treat your knee injury but will also assess the entire lower body and other possible weak areas contributing to your condition. We are also trained to distinguish conditions that don’t require custom bracing and will suggest alternative treatments.

In addition, we ensure that your custom knee brace will continue to serve your needs. As we are experienced in the injury and recovery process, we understand how your knee brace will fit into your work, life, and play. Your knee brace should fit so comfortably that you forget that you are even wearing it.

If you have questions regarding how and when to use the brace or any other concerns, we will be more than glad to help you find a solution. At MVMT Physio & Chiro, we are dedicated to help everyone in finding the right knee brace for their specific needs. Our qualified physical therapists have been serving St. Albert and greater Edmonton area for over two decades now.  Contact us today for a no obligation appointment. ‘)}

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