5 Clear Signs You Need a Knee Brace
If you want to have a healthy life, living to your fullest expectation, you need to incorporate purposeful movement and exercise. But what do you do if you have a compromised knee? How do I know if I need a knee brace?
You need a knee brace when your mobility is compromised without one. If a knee brace helps you move better, then use a knee brace. Restrictive movement is better than no movement, and any kind of exercise will lead to overall healthier life.
How Do I Know If I Need a Knee Brace?
The first time you hear and feel your knees pop, your heart may skip a beat. You'll wonder if you need to see a doctor or if you need to start shopping for a knee brace to keep your knees in check.
However, when you talk to your friends, you'll quickly discover that a condition like clicky knees is all too common and does not require a knee brace.
So then, how do you know exactly when you need a brace? How do you know if a condition, a noise, or a pop is something common or an injury that will lead to immobility?
Here are five signs you need a knee brace.
If your doctor diagnoses you with arthritis in your knee, you're not alone. In the United States alone, over 54 million people or 23 percent of all adults have arthritis. Of that 54 million people, 24 million say arthritis limits their activity level.
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the knee. It grows in likelihood with age, most commonly affecting people age 50 and older.
With that said, people younger than 50 can also develop osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in your knee gradually wears away. Regular wear and tear will wear the cartilage thin, making it rough and frayed.
As a result of bone-on-bone running, painful bone spurs develop between the bones.
All types of arthritis result in a painful, inflamed knee. You'll know you have arthritis in your knee when you experience the following symptoms:
- Stiff, swollen knee
- Difficulty bending and straightening the knee
- Increased pain and swelling after sitting or resting
- Flare-up after vigorous activity
- Creaky, clicking grinding knee because of loose fragments of cartilage
- Weak, buckling knee
- Increased joint pain with rainy weather
Any of these symptoms can mean you're developing arthritis.
How Can a Brace Help Arthritis?
You do not have to suffer endlessly and quietly with arthritis. You can find relief from even a basic knee sleeve that compresses the joint and reduces swelling.
Many arthritis sufferers have found relief with an unloader brace. This type of brace stabilizes the knee joint and limits the knee's ability to move side to side. It unloads the pressure from the knee joint to the thigh bone, alleviating pressure, and pain.
2. Torn Tissue
When you injure your knee whether it's from stepping off a curb wrong and wrenching your knee or from sustaining a blow during a football game, you will need a knee brace to stabilize your knee as recover.
An ACL tear occurs when you tear or sprain the anterior cruciating ligament, one of the major ligaments in your knee. Ligament tears and sprains happen commonly. Orthopedic surgeons performed over 450,000 cruciating ligament repair surgeries in 2018.
If you've blown out your knee, you will need a substantial knee brace as you recover from surgery. You can expect to wear a hinged brace for several weeks as you undergo physical therapy treatment. The brace will allow you to regain mobility while your ligaments and tendons heal and while you build strength in the muscle surrounding your knee.
A basic hinged brace specifically measured for your leg will keep you in check. The joint will track properly thus preventing further injury to your knee while it heals.
3. Chronic Knee Pain
You do not need arthritis or a blown knee to need a knee brace. Sometimes your knee just needs some relief from chronic knee pain.
Plenty of people experience temporary knee pain when they have an accident or they injure their knee. Chronic knee pain can come from anyone of a variety of conditions. These are just a few of the conditions and how a knee brace can help them.
- Tendinitis: Tendinitis is an angry, inflamed tendon that worsens when you climb, walk up an incline, or take the stairs. It feels like a sharp, stabbing pain. A knee brace helps compress the knee, keeping swelling and inflammation at bay.
- Bursitis: When you overuse or injure your knee, the bursa sacs that cushion impact will become inflamed and cause pain. A knee brace will compress the knee and reduce inflammation.
- Gout: This is arthritis caused by uric acid that builds up in the knee. A knee brace will help gout by compressing the knee and keeping it from swelling and becoming stiff.
In addition to these chronic conditions, an injury can lead to chronic pain. It can cause bleeding and swelling, creating a chronic problem over time if you do not treat the knee.
Sprains and strains can also make your knee pain worse along with overuse.
Also, if you do pay attention to your form as you walk, run, or perform any activity, you will find yourself with chronic knee pain. A knee brace can help alleviate the pain and remind you to maintain proper form.
Age and weight are major factors as well. Osteoarthritis affects nearly 20 percent of people who qualify as obese. In comparison, only 3.7 percent of people in a healthy weight range suffer from osteoarthritis.
The amount of weight you carry greatly affects your joints.
Weight is a catch-22, though. If you've ever needed to lose 20 pounds or more, you know that exercise is a big part of the weight-loss equation. Yet if your knees hurt because you're carrying too much weight, then you cannot exercise effectively to lose the weight that is causing you pain.
A knee brace can help reduce wear, tear, and inflammation. It reduces chronic pain. So if you suffer from chronic pain, you can try a brace that compresses your knee first to see if it helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
The best knee brace will be the one that offers you the most mobility. Sometimes that means you just need a knee sleeve. Sometimes you need a more structured brace.
4. Improved Athletic Performance
Nothing breaks an athlete's heart more than a broken body part. Yes, physical pain hurts. The emotional pain of knowing you won't be able to do your sport to your full potential hurts almost as much.
A knee brace can bring you back up to speed and even improve your athletic performance. As time goes on, you might notice your knees getting weaker, achier, and generally less functional with your sport.
A knee brace will keep you in the activity that you love despite a weak knee. Plus, the activity will help you maintain a healthy weight and build muscle that will strengthen the knee. When you wear the knee brace during your activity, you'll get back into shape and protect your knee along the way.
As you look at knee braces for your athletic activity, look for the brace that best works for your sport. For example, a knee brace for running will have different demands than a knee brace for football.
Some people hesitate to put on a knee brace for their athletic activity. They worry they will always have to wear a clunky mechanical device.
You can wean yourself off your knee brace with the proper physical therapy. The brace will give you the confidence you need to go hard at your sport without worrying about your knee. The physical therapy exercises you do will strengthen your muscles surrounding the knee so you can eventually let the brace go.
Meanwhile, the brace will give you a psychological and physical edge, allowing you to be a part of your team again.
5. The Doctor Says So
If a physician says you need a knee brace, then you need a knee brace. Doctors will vary on their opinions. When a doctor prescribes a brace, they will say specifically which kind of brace you need.
Here are a few different types of braces a doctor may prescribe:
- Functional Braces: this brace will support your knee if you've injured it.
- Prophylactic Brace: this brace will protect your knee from injury during a contact sport like basketball or football.
- Rehabilitative Brace: If you've had surgery or an injury, you need a brace that limits your knee movement so you do not injure the knee further. A rehabilitative brace protects your knee as it heals.
- Patellofemoral Brace: If you've had trouble with a kneecap moving out of place, this brace keeps your kneecap in place. It will move smoothly over your knee joint with a patellofemoral brace.
Not all knee braces require a prescription. You could purchase any one of these braces on your own if you think you needed it. A physician's recommendation solidifies your need for a brace.
Will a Knee Brace Weaken My Knee?
Many people avoid knee braces because they fear it will make their knee weaker. They do not want a crutch that they will have to depend on for the rest of their lives. They want their old knee back.
A knee brace certainly can make the muscles around your knee atrophy if you do nothing other than wear the knee brace. However, paired with the correct rehabilitative exercises, a knee brace will protect your knee from further injury and allow you the mobility you desire.
Now more than ever we need movement in our lives.
Exercise has proven to ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This problem is pervasive in our society, with over 40 million adults in the United States or approximately 18 percent of the population exhibiting symptoms of anxiety.
Exercising can change these statistics. If you need to wear a knee brace to exercise, then wear the knee brace. It will lead to a desire for more exercise and overall wellness.
A Signal For Help
There is one more case where you should consider a knee brace. A knee brace is a signal to others that they should be careful around you.
Here's one scenario. You've had knee surgery, gone through rehab, and been given the go-ahead to graduate from your brace. However, you must take public transportation daily, and you're concerned about people bumping your recently repaired knee.
A knee brace will signal to others that you've had surgery recently. They'll take a wider step around you and give you an invisible cushion for movement.
If you're worried about someone bumping your knee, wear the brace.
Brace Up, Enjoy Life
So, how do I know if I need a knee brace? Your pain is your first indicator, a sort of warning light on the dashboard of your body. If you feel just a niggle of pain now and then, you most likely do not need a brace yet.
However, if you feel pain every time you try to do your favorite activity, beware. You might need a brace.
Mobility is your second factor. If you find yourself choosing to sit on the couch or easy chair because moving just hurts too much, beware. Begin looking for a brace.
Immobility is the biggest enemy of poor health. When you stop moving, you begin your first step down an unhealthy lifestyle.
So take the time to check out a wide variety of knee braces out there. We can hook you up with the brace that will get you moving and enjoying your favorite activities once again.