Knee pain can be attributed to many things, including arthritis, strains, sprains, tendinitis, inflammation and cartilage issues. There are knee braces specifically designed for these problems. Brace types range from basic sleeves to functional custom knee braces. Obtaining the correct diagnosis from a medical professional is helpful in determining which type of brace you may need.
Sleeve-type braces can be as basic as a simple neoprene style, with the primary function of compression for swelling with a minimal amount of support. These sleeves may have a hole for the patella, or kneecap, or be of a solid nature. If you have a patella tracking problem, often referred to as patella femoral disorder, you may use a sleeve brace with a strap on the outside of the kneecap to keep it from moving. Ligament stability braces are often used for knee sprains. These sleeves often have strapping around the thigh and the calf. They may have lateral bars which provide increased stability and support.
A strap-type brace is often useful for the control of pain in tendinitis and Osgood-Schlatter's disease. This strap is wrapped around your knee, between the kneecap and the tibial tubercle, which is the bony prominence at the front of your lower leg. This strap alleviates some of the tension on the tendon, helping to decrease your pain and tenderness.
Functional stability braces are typically used to provide support to a knee that has sustained a specific and more severe ligament injury. These injuries can be to any of your four ligaments, therefore, the braces are designed specifically to address the exact instability or laxity created from the injured ligament. These braces can be off the shelf or custom made. The variety of materials include metal, aluminum and carbon fiber. The strapping system of these functional braces often create a specific and particular pressure, helping to replace the support of the injured ligament.
The osteoarthritis brace creates an unloading, which decreases the rubbing of bone on bone, that creates the pain with this condition. There are a wide variety of braces available, ranging from sleeves to custom, but all work with the same premise of "opening" the painful side of the joint. This is done by creating pressure from the opposite side, often with an adjustable hinge. The amount of pressure applied is then adjusted according to your tolerance.
There are many factors to consider when determining which brace will be most beneficial for your knee pain. The most important being a proper diagnosis, and a knowledgeable practitioner. If your brace is not addressing your specific problem, you will likely not obtain any relief from its use. Cost and insurance coverage may also be factors. Some insurances plans have Durable Medical Equipment or DME coverage, while others do not. Your insurance plan may allow for a brace, but work with specific companies, so you will want to contact them directly regarding your specific policy. If you do have coverage, you will need a prescription from your physician. Brace application can also play a key role in its effectiveness. If it does not fit or is worn improperly, it will not provide the intended benefits.