What is the Right Knee Brace for You?

 In Bracing, Cartilage, Knee Injuries

With thousands of braces on the market—which one is right for you and your knee problem?

This answer firstly depends on the diagnosis; the damaged knee structure causing pain or dysfunction for which you are getting the brace.  A diagnosis from your physician is always the best place to start.

Braces are generally meant to have a specific role in you lifestyle and activities.  They are not a panacea.    You will generally sacrifice some degree of comfort when wearing a brace.

1. Who are the experts?

Who are the brace experts?  Orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine physicians are generally the most knowledgeable physicians when it comes to bracing.  However, there are others in the medical business that have expansive expertise in this domain, such as athletic trainers, physical therapists and brace reps.

Athletic trainers (ATc) are the side-line medical team who take care of athletes. They are the ones to run on to the football field when a player gets injured.  They help to get players back to their sport, expeditiously and safely.  Experience has taught them which braces tend to work the best, particularly for athletic injuries. 

Physical Therapists see many patients who wear braces as part of their rehabilitation.  PT’s  often help define to what extent brace-wearing is helpful in this process.  Their intent is to get one’s body to the point where a brace is unnecessary, if possible.

Brace Reps, or brace sales representatives, have the in-depth training to describe and sell braces to clinics and patients.  A brace is developed and manufactured for a purpose.  Brace reps have an intimate understanding of that process, which is very helpful to the clinician.  Brace reps also know which braces are selling, which implies that those braces are successful.

OrthoVirginia Durable Medical Equipment Team: At OrthoVirginia, we strive to hire and train the best people. Our Richmond DME team consists of four board certified fitters, as we as certified athletic trainers. Look for COF or CFo credentials behind our names and you know you are receiving the best DME/Bracing care.

2. The Diagnosis

What brace is right for your knee problem?  The decision usually starts with the diagnosis; the damaged knee structure causing pain or dysfunction for which you are getting the brace. 

We as physicians attempt to categorize joint issues into one of the following

  • acute injury
  • acute pain or dysfunction without a specific injury
  • chronic pain or degeneration

With the combination of a history, physical exam and possible radiologic testing, we will make a provisional diagnosis.  These may include:

  • ligament injury
  • contusion
  • cartilage injury
  • arthritis or wear and tear
  • maltracking
  • malalignment
  • instability
  • swelling or effusion

3.  functional Categories of braces—rules of engagement

  • There a specific braces for each diagnosis of problem, eg, malalignment, instability, chronic pain, etc.. 
  • There are fewer braces that address multiple problems.
  • the more the brace is asked to do, the more structure the brace requires
  • the more structural the brace, the more discomfort
  • you will generally sacrifice some degree of comfort when wearing a brace —- is it worth the benefit?

4. RATING CATEGORIES of BRACES

Wearability

  • fit
  • comfort
  • binding and pinching
  • pressure points
  • slippage

Function

  • complexity and ease of use
  • longevity
  • reliability
  • function

Cost, Prescription versus over the counter

Satisfaction

  • comfort and function
  • satisfaction/dollar

  

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