How Long Should I Wear a Knee Brace?
The CDC estimates that approximately 15 million people now live with joint pain. Treatment for knee pain, in particular, varies from invasive surgical options to side-effect bearing medications to natural treatment for knee pain. Knee braces are a common natural treatment for knee pain, but they come with a variety of questions.
You may wonder, how long should I wear a knee brace? You should wear a knee brace for more than a week after you injure your knee. If you're using your knee and seeking therapy, your knee will heal gradually, so tossing the brace after just a week does not give your knee adequate time to heal.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about knee braces from how long you should wear them to the circumstances that require them.
Knee Braces and All That Surrounds Them
Once you know a knee brace will help you, a handful of questions fill your mind.
How do I wear a knee brace with pants, and should I wear a knee brace while sleeping. If I have ACL or meniscus surgery, how long should I wear a knee brace?
How Long Should I Wear a Knee Brace?
Whether you self-diagnose yourself with knee problems or have a doctor diagnose you, when you first slide a knee brace on, you should wear it for at least a week.
Knee braces have multiple purposes depending on the brace itself.
For example, a knee brace with hinges protects ligaments during contact sports. Some braces reduce pain by offloading the pressure from parts of the knee. If you have general pain, a compression knee sleeve will keep your knee warm and support a weak joint.
Engineers design some knee braces for specific parts of the knee. For example, some will align the patella while applying pressure to reduce pain. If you've had surgery, a rehabilitative brace will keep your knee immobile so you can rehab it slowly. With a rehab brace, you will have slow, limited motion to protect yourself from reinjuring your knee.
Should I Wear a Knee Brace While Sleeping?
You might want to give your leg a break by taking the knee brace off while sleeping. But if a doctor tells you to wear your knee brace while sleeping, do this. If you're a surgical patient, you have no choice.
If you just have a sore knee though, you can give your leg a break from the brace. Wearing the brace all day might cause other problems with the skin around your knee.
When a surgeon recommends you wear a brace to bed, he wants to make sure your joints stay in place. The movement in your sleep could undo what the surgeon did, and thus you need to wear it to avoid more injury.
Your knee pain could lead to insomnia. Thus you must sleep with your brace to nab a good night's sleep with fewer painful movements.
Use pillows. Sleep on your back with your knee elevated on a pillow. This keeps you from putting one leg on top of another and causing more pain.
While you have one pillow under your knee, use a second pillow to elevate your body on the side. This second pillow keeps you from moving throughout the night and thus keeps your joints more stable.
Use ice. Before you go to bed, ice down your knee. Ice will reduce inflammation and swelling that could cause pain at night.
Use lubricant. The area under your brace will begin to itch, so switch out your brace and apply moisturizer so that your skin does not dry out. Air out the area your knee brace covers before you go to bed, and then put the brace back on before you shut the lights out.
Check your straps. Make sure your knee brace straps are tight enough to prevent movement but not so tight they cut off circulation.
How to Wear a Knee Brace with Pants
Do not let your pants prevent you from protecting your knee.
You can wear a knee brace or knee support both over and under your pants. If you're wearing skinny jeans or leggings, wear the knee brace over your pants.
If you have a bulkier knee brace with a hinge on the back, just slip it over some snug pants. if you're wearing looser pants, just slide the sleeve on under the pants.
Ultimately, you need to make sure your brace fits snugly enough to do its job. So wear it over your pants only if you can ensure a snug enough fit.
How Long Should I Wear a Knee Brace After ACL Surgery?
ACL surgery is among one of the most common types of knee injury surgery since the ACL is the most commonly injured part of the knee. Usually, athletes participating in an intense sport blow out their ACL, and since more and more individuals are competing in sports now, more people are injuring their ACLs.
As a result, orthopedic surgeons have made ACL repair a focus over the last 15 years in particular. A good orthopedic surgeon can successfully reconstruct a torn ACL. For a patient to receive a full recovery, though, he or she must wear a brace for several weeks after surgery and throughout rehabilitation.
The type of ACL injury you sustain will determine the amount of time you will need in a brace.
First Degree Tear
With a first-degree ACL tear, your ACL is just stretched but not torn. You will feel tenderness and see some swelling, but you will still be able to bear weight on the joint and walk. The knee will hold up during an activity at this point.
A first-degree tear really isn't a tear, and thus you can use a brace to stabilize the joint and help it heal on its own.
Second Degree Tear
A second-degree tear is more serious. In this case, the ACL is partially torn, and you will see some moderate swelling and feel some tenderness. Walking will hurt, and you may even limp. Your joint will even give out at times during activity.
Second-degree tears need a physician's evaluation. You should go into the doctor for treatment if you cannot walk without a limp. With this tear, you may not need surgery but will certainly need a brace for a period of time as prescribed by a doctor.
Third Degree Tear
Third-degree tears are full-on torn ligaments of the ACL. If you experience a third-degree tear, you will also experience a great deal of pain at the time of the injury. The pain will slowly subside, though, as time passes.
Your knee will most likely swell a great deal. Since the ligament is completely torn, your knee will not be able to hold your knee in place, and your knee will completely give out when walking.
Third-degree tears knee a doctor's eye and most likely surgical intervention.
Regardless of the type of ACL tear you sustain, you will need a knee brace for effective treatment. If you plan on playing a sport, the knee brace post-ACL reconstruction will stabilize your joint and reduce the risk of further long-term complications such as arthritis.
Should I wear a knee brace after meniscus surgery?
You can do more to your knee than blow out your ACL. If ACL tears are the most common injuries, meniscus injuries have to be a close second.
The meniscus refers to two pieces of cartilage in the knee that act as shock absorbers between your lower bone (the tibia) and upper thigh bone (femur). So when you hear a physician say you've torn cartilage in your knee, he or she is most likely referring to your meniscus.
A torn meniscus usually requires meniscus surgery, where a doctor clips back any torn cartilage and prevents the meniscus from tearing more.
You will need a knee brace after meniscus surgery to prevent further injury and protect that joint. The degree of the tear in your meniscus determines the type of brace you will need.
For example, if you've sustained a minor or degenerative meniscus tear, you need a basic knee sleeve.
However, if you've torn your meniscus on both sides, then you will need a ligament or hinged brace.
Most doctors recommend you wear a knee brace for six weeks after meniscus surgery since most bones and ligaments need at least six weeks to heal.
After meniscus surgery, sleep is your best healing tool. Keep your brace on even while you sleep. Try to keep your leg propped up with a pillow and then focus on breathing deeply and resting.
A knee brace after meniscus surgery will stabilize the joint and reduce the likelihood of injuring other parts of your body. When you have an unstable joint, your muscles will overcompensate in other parts of your body to protect that bad joint. A knee brace protects all of your muscles by stabilizing the joint
What Does a Knee Brace Do?
A good knee brace will protect your knee by stabilizing it while the damaged ligaments heal. As a result, you will not overextend or hyperextend your knee joint. The brace just will not allow it.
You can walk and move with more confidence with the brace on, knowing the brace keeps your knee in check as you heal. If you're going through physical therapy, you can push through some discomfort knowing that your joint stays stable because of the brace.
The pressure of the brace reduces the direct pressure from the upper leg on a damaged meniscus. This means you can move more with less pain.
The added pressure of a knee brace will improve your circulation as well. This increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to the injured area and speeds up recovery.
A knee brace can help you avoid surgery as well. Not every doctor will recommend surgery as the only fix for a meniscus tear, especially if you have just a minor tear. A knee brace will allow you to go through physical therapy and avoid expensive surgery.
What Types of Knee Braces Exist?
Knee braces come in a variety of types and sizes. Each one helps with a specific injury.
For example, doctors most often recommend hinged braces and customized knee braces after a surgical procedure or serious injury. These are your most structured brace that takes the pressure off ligaments and bones so you can start moving right away. Hinged and customized braces also allow you to begin physical therapy before your muscles lose their tone and strength.
Knee compression sleeves, small bands and straps, and wraparound knee braces exist mostly for pain relief. Some of these braces can push a joint into alignment so you can avoid further injury. Some will just alleviate pain and prevent the dreaded jumper's knee.
To know which knee brace works best, talk to a doctor. A knowledgeable physician will examine your knee and ask lots of questions and then recommend the best knee brace for your needs. A doctor will know best if you should use a compression sleeve to help keep your joint stable or if you should use a wraparound to help with just mild pain.
Keep your end goal in mind as you begin to look at knee braces. If you're an athlete, you may need a more durable brace, like a PowerRebound brace instead of just a sleeve.
However, if you do not know why your knee hurts, you will not know which brace to get. So a doctor will best help diagnose the problem, be it a mild tear or just a strain, so you can pick out the best brace for your knee.
Move With Confidence
Knee braces have changed the definition of mobility. Generations before us simply endured their joint pain, attributing it to a bum knee. Current generations have options, though, and with the right knee brace, you can once again move with confidence.
Now that you can confidently answer the question, how long should I wear a knee brace. For all of your knee brace needs, contact us.