Almost every athlete suffers some sort of knee injury at least once in their career. Your knees are important in everything from running to lifting heavy equipment. The more active you are, the more likely they’re going to experience knee pain. When this happens, more often than not you’ll find yourself wearing at least one type of knee brace during and after the recovery process. Of course, you don’t have to have a sports injury to need and wear a knee brace. Many people do it just for prevention or to alleviate pain from a non-injury-related cause. Knee braces allow you to get back on your feet quickly even if you won’t be heading back onto the field for a few days or weeks. Here are five great reasons why you might find yourself wearing a knee brace.
1 Protecting a Knee from Injury
By far the most common use of the knee brace isn’t responsive to an injury, but rather preventative. Many athletes wear compression or small knee braces to help stop their knees from being pushed too far or in the wrong direction should something go wrong on the field or during practice. This means athletes are, in fact, more free to play as hard as they can with the added comfort that a slight mishap is much less likely to result in an injury that puts them out of commission.
Braces that are for prevention and protection are often referred to as functional braces because they are used while the knee still has full function and enable the athlete to perform sports activities more freely. If your knee is prone to aches or twists, whether on the job or during sports, consider trying a functional base to ensure your knee stays healthy.
2 Supporting a Knee after Recovery
Often after a knee injury, you may be back to full functionality but the knee itself may still be weakened and in the late stages of the healing process. Trying to go on business-as-usual with a recently recovered knee is a risky decision. The problem is that if you experience even one additional mishap before your knee is fully healed and re-strengthened, it can take more and worse damage than the first time. This is another reason why many athletes are out on the field wearing a functional knee brace.
The brace acts as a stabilizing factor, protecting and supporting the knee to prevent follow-up injury. If you have had a notable knee injury in the last 6 months, it’s usually a good idea to wear a knee brace while engaging in any difficult or high-activity tasks. This will ensure that even if something does go wrong, your knee can continue healing and might even be able to save you from a bad fall without taking additional damage.
3 Rehabbing an Injured Knee
Immediately after a knee injury is when your doctor will most likely suggest wearing a knee brace. Whether you are suffering from a sprain, overextension, or one of the many other types of knee injuries, you’ll probably find yourself wearing a brace for anywhere from a single week to several months. These braces are known as rehabilitative braces because they help you recover from an injury. Rehabilitative braces are incredibly helpful as they protect the injured area and keep you from doing anything that could damage it further.
Wearing a rehabilitative brace gives you the ability to move around rather than constantly sit or hobble while the knee heals. They often are like a cross between a splint and knee joint with padded hinges aligned with the sides of your knee. After an injury, they provide mobility by keeping your walking weight off the knee itself. The stiff design also ensures that your knee doesn’t turn unpleasantly or bend too far in one direction, preventing additional damage that could be caused by combining weight with loose movement.
4 Supporting an Arthritic Knee
If you have arthritis in your knees, moving around can be uncomfortable and sports can seem out of the question. However, many professional and amateur athletes alike maintain their active lifestyles with the help of assistive gear rather than letting arthritis rule their choices. For knee pain, it’s possible that you can recover both mobility and activity with a brace type known as an unloader brace. As the name suggests, unloader braces distribute the weight from your knee to stronger areas of your leg, leaving the knee itself responsible only for directing movement.
If you suffer from arthritis in the knees and your activity level is taking a hit, consider consulting with your doctor to see if unloader braces could make the difference you’re looking for. These braces can allow aging athletes and seniors to get back on the field or at least the power-walking path, and stay healthy well past retirement age despite your arthritis.
5 Preventing Swelling
When treating a minor knee injury, swelling is often one of the biggest concerns. When extra blood and other fluids pool up around an injury causing swelling, this can also increase the pressure and intensify pain. If allowed to continue, it can even significantly slow down the healing process. This is why the majority of the standard RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) recovery principles are based on swelling reduction. Compression, a primary state in recovery, is often achieved at first with a quickly applied elastic bandage but over the next few days and weeks you’ll want something that can keep the swelling down without constantly being re-wrapped
This is what compression braces are for. They hold on tightly and offer a stable source of compression throughout the day without the hassle of tending to an elastic bandage. Some compression braces even include built-in pouches that can hold hot/cold packs thus providing you with the ability to both compress and ice without occupying your hands. This means that you can get low-activity work done without having to hold a bag of ice for thirty minutes out of every two hours.
Wearing a knee brace can happen for a large number of reasons and circumstances, each one of them personalized to an individual’s needs. There are many different kinds of knee brace built for different purposes and a very large number of people find themselves wearing one at one point in their lives or another. If you experience regular knee pain, have recently been through a sports injury, or simply want to prevent injury the next time you work out, consider the humble knee brace.