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What is The Best Knee Brace Design for me?

What is The Best Knee Brace Design for me?
Posted in: Educational

First, stick to the top brands and avoid the knock offs so you get proven designs and quality materials.

The knee brace industry is continually evolving, and many new design types are brought to market each year. You may see ads for braces with 'springs' or other mechanical assistance, as well as supports built into garments like tights. These innovations are interesting and may have some benefits, but with only a limited amount of research it is difficult to know. There are also an increasing number of 'knock off' products sold online that you should avoid, which are simply inexpensive copies of the real thing (but made with poor quality materials and missing subtle, but important features that you may not see with the naked eye).

If you want to buy with confidence, stick with the industry leaders in bracing like DonJoy, BREG, Ossur, and Bauerfeind who spend millions of dollars each year on research and development. If you select a knee brace from one of these brands (or the other brands carried by OrthoMed) you can be sure you're getting a medically proven product that has been used by millions of people, and which is made with high quality durable materials. 

Choosing the right knee brace for your condition can be confusing because of the wide range of knee pain causes and knee brace designs. If you want to skip reading this post and just ask us for a recommendation, Ask Here.

Second, understand your condition and knee brace design basics

Knee pain is common and affects people of all ages and activity levels. Knee pain may be the result of an injury (such as a damaged ligament) or degenerative changes such as osteoarthritis

Pain caused by osteoarthritis is located in at least one of three compartments of the knee: the inside (medial), outside (lateral) or behind the kneecap (patellofemoral). Other forms of knee pain can be located throughout the knee joint and may involve the kneecap; whether it be improper tracking, tendonitis or chondromalacia. Your pain and stiffness may be worse after a particular type of movement (such as going up and down stairs, or running). Signs and symptoms that usually accompany knee pain include:

  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Redness and warmth to the touch
  • Weakness or instability
  • Popping or clicking noises
  • Inability to fully straighten the knee

Many types of minor knee pain respond well to self-care. Physical therapy and knee braces also have been shown to help. In more severe cases you may require a surgical procedure (such as a ligament reconstruction, arthroscopy, cartilage repair, osteotomy, and knee arthroplasty).

Knee braces can be very helpful to manage pain associated with knee injuries and to provide protection from future injuries. You may also be able to delay the need for surgery.There are a variety of brace designs to choose from that can help you manage pain, recover and prevent re-injury, whether it be for sports, daily activity, or post-surgery.

In general, more 'rigid' style braces are designed for moderate to severe conditions, and less rigid (such as soft elastic braces) are designed for more mild conditions.

Rigid Frame (includes both custom and ready made)

A Rigid frame knee brace provides the maximum level of support for the knee. The most common rigid frame braces are designed to protect the ligaments (ACL, MCL/LCL, PCL), followed by treatment of Osteoarthritis, and then other common knee conditions

Braces designed for ligament support have hinges situated on both sides of the knee to help stabilize the knee joint and to prevent it from moving unnaturally. They can prevent a bad twist, and lessen the severity of ligament injuries during a fall or sudden movement. Hinges can also prevent hyperextension of the knee.

Osteoarthritis braces, typically called "unloader" knee braces have hinges (and sometimes strapping) on one or both sides of the knee. The hinges (or strapping) gently applies pressure to one side of the knee to unload the painful/arthritic compartment of the knee. This increases joint spacing on the impacted side and therefore reduces pain and improves knee joint function. 

Rigid frame braces are made from combinations of metal (like aluminum), some more exotic materials (like carbon fiber), plastic, elastic material and straps. They come in many sizes, colours and designs. OrthoMed offers custom and ready made braces from the top suppliers around the world such as DonJoy, Ossur, Breg, Bauerfeind and others.

Rigid frame braces can be used for a wide range of applications from athletes who need protection and stabilization during sports to a patient needing support pre and post-surgery (repair of the ACL, MCL or PCL). 

Rigid knee braces are designed for moderate to maximum support and offer better protection and stability. Here are some examples of rigid frame knee braces offered by OrthoMed. Custom and off-the-shelf versions are available.

Soft Hinged

Soft hinged knee braces are ideal for conditions that require mild to moderate support. They can be helpful for both ligament, osteoarthritis, and other common knee conditions such as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.

Hinges or 'splints' on either side of the brace provide support for the knee joint for slight instability, or osteoarthritis of the knee.

Some soft hinged braces include a pad that surrounds the kneecap to provide a secure hold for the kneecap to guide proper patella movement in the femoral groove.

Many soft hinged knee braces also include compression (through knitted fabric designs), and strap systems to provide additional support for the knee. 

Open vs Closed popliteal

An open popliteal has a small opening behind the knee which can help keep the body cool. The closed popliteal has no opening on the back of the knee and is recommended for individuals who have bursitis at the back of their knee.

Open vs Closed patella

Braces with an opening at the front allow the knee cap to sit in a round "donut", "J", "C" or "U" shaped cushion to support the patella movement (called patella tracking). A closed brace at the front are for those that do not suffer from maltracking of the patella

If you're unsure which options you need, you can contact our kinesiology team for assistance, or book a custom knee brace fitting with our brace specialists. Here are examples of soft hinged knee braces offered by OrthoMed.

Sleeves / Compression

A knee sleeve is designed for mild support. They can be used to manage pain for various knee injuries such as meniscus tears, arthritis, and mild strains.

Wearing a knee sleeve can also offer protection in sports like basketball, running or weightlifting that place a lot of impact on the knees from squatting, running, and jumping.

Most sleeves incorporate compression through a knitted or elastic type fabric. They may also feature an integrated pad at the kneecap to assist with patella tracking support. 

Many knee sleeves offer certified medical grade compression and have material that offers moisture wicking and breathability, keeping your knee cool during wear.

Many designs also include light weight stays (like a flexible splint that runs along the side of the brace) to ensure the garment doesn't bunch around your knee during repetitive movements.

Here are examples of knee sleeves offered by OrthoMed.

Third, if you're not sure get advice from a qualified source

OrthoMed has an experienced team that is ready to assist you with selecting the right brace design for your unique needs. Contact us today for a free consultation with any of our products, or book your custom knee brace consultation, it's free!

Check out our credentials and learn more about what we do.

1 year ago
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