If you sustain a knee injury or experience joint instability, you may need a knee brace. A very common question from patients being prescribed a knee brace is: will the knee brace weaken my knee?
The answer is… yes and no!
In order to understand this answer, let’s review the indications for use of knee braces and how they affect the knee and its surrounding musculature.
- Knee braces for pain relief
Knee braces for pain relief are generally designed for comfort. The tactile feeling of the knee brace on your skin distracts your brain from thinking about or perceiving the pain. An example of a knee brace designed for pain relief is the DonJoy Clima-Flex™.
These types of knee braces are unlikely to cause muscular weakness around the knee joint. However, you should not become reliant on these braces. If you are experiencing knee pain, work with your healthcare team to find and treat the root cause of your pain so that it doesn’t lead to weakness down the road.
- Knee braces for stability
If you are experiencing instability (feeling of your knee joint being loose or giving way), a knee brace can provide support so that you are able to continue to walk and perform functional activities. These knee braces have rigid components to provide the sturdiness you need to feel protected and confident in using your knee. An example of a knee brace designed for stability is the DonJoy Playmaker II that prevents knee joint hyperextension.
The intervention for knee joint instability is usually strengthening the thigh muscles surrounding the knee. If used in place of that strengthening program, a stability brace could contribute to the muscles around the knee becoming weak. Rather, a stability brace should complement the strengthening program and be used as the knee recovers and gets stronger.
- Knee braces for protection of the knee joint following injury or surgery
Following injury or surgery, you may be prescribed a knee brace to protect the knee joint while it recovers. Often these braces prevent full range of motion to make sure you are not pushing past your limits. An example of a knee brace that is prescribed after surgery to limit range of motion is the DonJoy X-ACT ROM Knee Brace.
The use of a knee brace in this scenario can weaken the knee outside of the allowed ranges of motion, but know that this is totally normal. It is going to be crucial that you follow your post-op protocol and rehabilitation plan in order to regain strength safely. As you progress through rehab, your doctor or physical therapist will adjust the knee brace to gradually allow you to use more and more range of motion. They will also help you strengthen the knee muscles in these new ranges of motion as you progress through rehab.
- Knee braces for improving function
Many knee braces are designed to help you function in your work or daily life. We are advocates of using knee braces to support your participation in the activities you love. For example, if you love to garden and a knee brace helps you kneel down and garden in your yard, by all means, use the knee brace! But also consider with your healthcare provider the benefits of participating in a strengthening program to help you improve your function and prevent further injury.
To browse various types of knee braces, including their indications for use, check out Elite Medical Supply.