The knee joint provides a large range of movement and is designed to support a considerable amount of weight, even when bent. The knee joint consists of cartilage, tendons, bones and ligaments. Ligaments are the tough bands of tissue that connect the bones in the body. There are four ligaments which make up the knee joint, which are each susceptible to injury; the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
Knee ligament injuries can occur from a sharp change in direction, either from a twist, fall or landing incorrectly from a jump. They can also be caused by a direct impact to the knee, which usually happens quickly with force.
- Grade 1 (mild): The ligament stretches but does not tear.
- Grade 2 (moderate): The ligament partially tears. Swelling and bruising is likely in this instance, and movement of the joint can be painful.
- Grade 3 (severe): The ligament can tear completely, which causes swelling, possibly bruising and an inability to weight bear through the joint with instability.
- Swelling of the joint within the first 24 hours post injury.
- A feeling of instability or looseness around the joint.
- Pain, which can be sudden and severe.
- Difficulty putting weight through the joint.
- An audible ‘pop’ at the time of the injury.
- Bruising around the knee joint.
- An inability to fully move the knee joint through its normal range of movement.
Knee braces are commonly used in the treatment of knee ligament injuries; they offer pain relief, joint protection, support and can aid the rehabilitation process. There are many different types of knee braces designed to offer different levels of support. Certain braces protect the knee to prevent further damage, other support the knee to control pain, and some offer immobilisation of the knee joint to optimise healing after the injury. A knee brace should be designed to support your knee in a way that matches your individual needs.
Types of knee braces:
These offer immediate support and immobilisation post injury or post-surgery. They hold the knee straight to prevent further damage to the ligament and can aid the healing process. They are often used prior to a hinged knee brace when the rehabilitation stage of treatment can begin.
These are lightweight and flexible and they are designed to provide mild stability and support, with an element of compression. Knee sleeves can also work well for mild knee pain and can help to control swelling.
Wrap-a-round Knee braces:
These provide increased support compared to the knee sleeves and are designed for mild and moderate knee injuries. They can provide increased stability and pain relieve. The wrap around style is also more accommodating for variable swelling as it can be adjusted for fit and comfort. These braces are lightweight and can be easier to put on and take off due to their design.
Hinged Knee braces:
These braces offer the maximum support post severe ligament injury. There can be used post ligament reconstructive surgery and for long term management of knee instability. These braces are designed to hold the knee in the correct alignment when bending and weight bearing to help healing, reduce pain, provide stability and prevent further injury.
Tips for knee brace wear and use:
There are many reasons why people can struggle to wear their knee brace, this includes:
- Poor fit, resulting in pain or the knee brace sliding down.
- Pain when wearing the brace.
- No noticeable relief with wear.
- Skin irritation and rubbing.
Choosing the right knee brace and fitting it correctly each time is the key to optimum knee brace wear. Securely fastening the brace and ensuring it is in the best position will prevent the brace from sliding down.
Knowing when to wear the brace is also an important factor. Some braces need to be worn all day (and occasionally at night) and some only need to be worn for certain activities. Wearing the brace at the incorrect times can cause problems, such as increased knee stiffness or muscle wastage or lead to a recurrent injury.
It is important to remember that a knee brace isn’t the right choice for everyone. If you have reduced sensation in your leg it might be difficult to sense high pressure points which can result in pressure wounds and skin abrasions. Vascular insufficiency may affect blood flow from needing to securely fasten the brace, which could lead to longer term vascular issues. Finally, bony deformities may affect the fit of standard braces resulting in high pressure points and a poor fitting brace.
If you would like any further information on our any of our knee braces then you can call us to speak with one of our clinicians by visiting our website at www.totalbodyorthotics.com. or contact us at