Whether you train in a gym 5 days a week or opt for a leisurely stroll as your preferred method of exercise, injury can happen to anyone. No matter your fitness level or experience – from lifting heavy weights or sprinting in a HIIT class, to walking or doing LISS cardio – our knees tend to take the brunt of it.
Cartilage in the knee deteriorates naturally, however some people find that this occurs earlier on in life making them more prone to injury, while others suffer from knee pain thanks to their fitness regime, therefore requiring regular exercise recovery. So what can be done to help?
Well, thankfully a few key products can make a huge difference to the symptoms of a physical injury like throbbing pain and help to prevent things from getting worse long-term – like the good old-fashioned knee brace.
Most people with arthritic knees or ligament injuries tend to wear a knee brace regularly despite working out or not, however is there something to be said to wearing one preventatively? To prevent deterioration of an already troublesome knee? A compression knee sleeve may prevent the knee swelling up after exercise.
What does a knee sleeve or brace do?
Wearing a knee sleeve or brace is designed to control movement of the knee, aims to change the alignment, and enhances proprioception. Proprioception is the brain’s unconscious ‘awareness’ of where the knee is in space, the loads going through it and how it is moving. A fitted sleeve or brace can also cause friction on the skin when the knee moves which boosts proprioception and can help to reduce swelling.
Types of knee injury and braces that can help
1. Dislocated knee cap – Patella brace
Wearing a patella brace can help if you have a knee cap that dislocates, as it can physically help guide your knee cap and reduce the tendency of it coming out of the joint. This type of knee brace can help fight against unnatural movement. There is also a proprioceptive effect from the tightly fitted knee sleeve.
2. Ligament injury – Hinged or ACL knee brace
If you’ve torn or ruptured your ACL for example, your knee will feel completely unstable and need support. That’s where a hinged or ACL knee brace comes in – it can help restrict the abnormal movement of the knee allowed by the damaged ligament, preventing it from getting into an uncomfortable position where it will give way. Again, there is a proprioceptive component that is related to the friction from the snug fit.
3. Knee brace for osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition and using a variety of knee braces can help in many ways. Some knee braces are designed to try and gap open the worn side of the knee – this can be effective as the knee tends to wear down on either the inner or outer side. When an unloader type brace is put on the knee and done up correctly, the painful worn side is literally unloaded, frequently reducing pain from the knee.
However, there are some limitations of these braces in how much force they can offload – they probably won’t help if you want to run or do high impact sports but can be very good for walks, gentle tennis and golf. These types of braces continually improve.
Also, osteoarthritic knees tend to swell up so compression is important as it can reduce this tendency – in fact swelling in the knee reduces proprioception so avoiding swelling in the knees can help improve muscle control. Bear in mind that friction of a tight knee sleeve on the skin enhances proprioception, so think: compression, compression, compression!
Can a knee brace cause more pain?
If you have an injury or are recovering from surgery, you were probably told some immediate treatments that can help, like icing the injury for example. wearing a knee brace can make all the difference to your wellbeing. It’s important to make sure that your knee brace or sleeve is tightly fitted or fitted to you as wearing a brace that does not fit properly can delay your recovery or cause more problems.
How long should I wear a knee brace?
You can wear a knee brace all day, however if you have a particular injury or participate in a specific sport, make sure to book an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgeon to make sure that you are being advised and fitted with the right knee brace or sleeve for you and understand whether you can wear them while you sleep or limit your time wearing it to during or after your workouts for example. It’s best to have a professional assess your specific case before you purchase an expensive knee brace.
How to prevent knee injury
If a brace is fitted tightly and properly and you have had your case assessed by an Orthopaedic Surgeon, this will prevent an unstable knee from giving way and reduce the risk of any further damage – like loss of muscle control and other joint pain. You may be able to avoid surgery.
When it comes to exercise, wearing a brace when your knees are healthy has not been shown to reduce ligament injury. In fact some studies have shown the opposite, with an increased risk of injury in those who wore a brace. So again, don’t fret! Simply get checked and understand what your best options are in order for you to get back to feeling your best in no time.