When it comes to knee braces there is not a shortage of options. From a wrap around to compression sleeves you can easily find the right one for your situation. While there is nothing wrong with the braces themselves, how we use them and how long we use them changes the effectiveness of the device.
How we use knee Braces
The first way that we use knee braces is to immobilize. ACL tears, knee replacements need time to heal so we immobilize them in order to speed up this process with out any set backs. The second way that we use braces is to stabilize. MCL sprains, patella femoral syndrome is usually a result of an acute injury. Knee braces that stabilize help to provide support to weak or inflamed muscles limiting how much they contribute to the knee action. The third way we use knee braces is to simply protect. This type of use is for the once a week basketball player or the weekend runner. Because they are aware of an issue with their knee and the braces helps them continue to be able to perform with limited pain. All these reasons are great but how much we use them and how long we use them for these purposes may have a negative impact down the road.
How long we use knee Braces
No matter what situation you may be in that requires you to need a knee brace all of them are supposed to be used temporarily. Usually a doctor or physical therapist will give you a timeline after surgery or repair, but some people can not seem to live without them. Let’s go back to the weekend runner or the Wednesday basketball player. The only time they use the brace is during activity. Ultimately all braces are made to support and immobilize even if it does so in a very small variant. Any time a muscle is supported or immobilized that muscle loses its ability to fully lengthen, shorten and contract. So, when you try to do your physical activity without the brace the pain and inflammation returns. What’s happening is the real issue with your knee is not being addressed. It could be as simple as a muscle imbalance or a weak muscle however, the longer you wear the brace and not address the real issue the longer the problem exists.
Solution for Knee braces
If you where ordered by your doctor or physical therapist to wear a knee brace wear it. However, ask how long I need to wear this and what can I do to increase strength and Range of motion? If you need more of an organized program seek advice from a Muscle Activation Technique specialist or a Medical Exercise specialist in your area. What I tend to do to help my clients is progress them through the various types of knee braces with the approval of their medical provider. They might start with an immobilization brace and graduate to a wrap brace up until no brace. hOverall, find out the source of your pain, don’t just support it or prolong it by always wearing a knee brace.