I get this question all the time in my chiropractic office – “I have knee pain, should I wear a brace?” The short answer I’ll start with is “maybe.”
If you want more than that…keep reading.
We need to get a little deeper into the knee and it’s problems before we start discussing whether or not to brace. The knee is a wonderfully supported joint with cushy shock absorbers called meniscus (pl. menisci) between the bones, a pair of cruciate (crossed) ligaments to keep the knee from sliding forward and backward, and a pair of collateral ligaments – one on each side of the knee – to keep it from buckling in or out. We’d better not forget the iliotibial band – the bain of many runners over the years! Those are simply the passive structures! We also have multiple major muscles that cross the joint to help stabilize it – the quadriceps on the front of the thigh who’s ends combine to form the patellar tendon that your kneecap is buried in, the hamstrings on the back of the thigh which include the biceps femoris, semitendinosis and semimembranosis. Also crossing the knee joint are the popliteus on the back of the knee and the sartorius and gracilis muscles.
My point with the last paragraph was to illustrate that the knee is already very well supported without some restrictive ace bandage or neoprene sleeve to immobilize it.
So let’s talk about when you have knee pain and you DO need a brace…
If you’ve suffered significant damage to the supporting structures of the knee such as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) or the medial or lateral collateral ligaments, you will likely require a brace of some sort (if it’s significant enough, you may have damaged one of your menisci as well and some such injuries require surgical repair). Also of note is a rupture of the patellar tendon which usually causes your quadriceps to roll up in your thigh – this is a bad thing and absolutely requires surgical repair.
…and when you don’t need a brace for knee pain
If you’re carrying some extra weight around the middle and your knees hurt when you go up and down stairs, or for some strange reason you enjoy squatting 500+ pounds, you don’t need a brace for your knee. If you wore a 40 pound lead hat and complained about neck pain, I wouldn’t give you a neck brace – I’d advise you to take your lead hat off. You already know what I’m going to tell you to do, so I’ll leave it at that.
If you do have knee pain that keeps you from doing the things you enjoy, please call our office and schedule a consultation with me. We’ll explore the possible causes of your knee pain and outline a plan of care to resolve the issues and get you back to life again.