Could a knee support help me?
A knee support - also known as a knee brace - could help you if:
- You have a swollen knee
- You’ve suffered an acute knee ligament injury
- There is abnormal movement in your knee following an injury
- You need help to improve muscle control in your knee
For more information and advice on whether you could benefit from a knee brace, please visit out our article To brace or not to brace?
How do knee supports work?
They support the knee by providing rigidity and they can change the angle of the knee. They can also realign the knee by physically guiding the knee joint to stop instability and to ensure the knee moves normally. Knee supports compress the knee, which helps to reduce or prevent swelling, and they can also improve “proprioception”. Proprioception is where the brain uses information from the normal tensions of the knee ligaments to unconsciously know where the knee is and how it is moving. When there is a problem with the knee, proprioception can be reduced, which affects movement. The material of a knee support improves proprioception because it provides friction with the skin, which helps the brain to understand how the knee is moving. Improved proprioception enhances muscle control, which, in turn, provides stability.
How do I choose a knee support?
There is such a bewildering array of knee supports on the market that it can be difficult to know where to start. We strongly recommend seeking the advice of an “orthotist” (a supports specialist). Please keep reading to find out more about how an orthotist can help you. Knee supports fall into two broad categories - simple knee supports and sophisticated knee supports.
What are simple knee supports?
In many cases, a simple knee support, made from neoprene or Lycra, is the best choice. It’s crucial you make sure your knee support is a snug fit (but obviously not so tight it makes your foot go numb). A major reason for this is to provide friction, which improves proprioception (see above). We recommend spending no more than £20-£35 on a simple knee support. It is easy to spend £60-£300 on a variation of this, but please do not waste your money - it will not do an awful lot more than the cheaper option. A simple knee support should last for a year or two.
When would I need a more sophisticated knee support?
Specialised knee supports include unloader supports (these are used for arthritic knees). Sports braces, which can make sure your knee does not perform abnormal movements during sports) include anterior cruciate ligament supports and supports for kneecap instability. Sophisticated knee supports, which try to control movement to a greater extent, can cost £500+. Although you can buy these supports online, it is very important to make sure you get it right with the help of a specialist orthotist. A top end sophisticated brace should last for 10 years.
Why do I need to see a specialist orthotist? Can’t I just buy my knee support online?
Buying online is a convenient way to buy a knee support and websites provide guides showing you how to take your measurements. With more sophisticated knee supports, you may need to take half a dozen measurements or more.
A specialist orthotist will help you to choose the right brace, talk through how it would work including possible pitfalls, take your measurements and order the knee support. The support can be dispatched by post but it is better that the orthotist carries out a second fitting. They may need to make some tweaks to ensure you get the optimal fit. You should budget to see an orthotist between one and three times.