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Bracing Yourself Against Arthritic Knee Pain

 
Here’s the catch-22 of physical therapy: Reducing pain requires physical work, but physical work can cause pain that makes it extremely difficult to do that work. Patients with arthritis of the knee joint often find that using a brace allows them to perform strengthening exercises more easily. But some people wrongly believe that a brace can “cure” arthritis or alleviate the symptoms entirely.

Two kinds of knee braces are used to help patients with arthritis. A “sleeve” brace, made of an elastic, rubbery material called neoprene, is worn snugly over the knee to provide support and compression. Shifting pressure from the inside of the knee to the outside, the custom-fit “unloader” (also called an “off-loader”) brace uses a rigid construction (usually made from foam and plastic) that limits movement and increases stability.
Both types of braces have proved effective in studies to varying degrees. Sleeve braces are cheaper, more comfortable and easier to use. While they can provide relief from symptoms and may even help prevent further injury by properly supporting the affected knee, they do not improve function. In other words, you feel better while you are wearing the sleeve brace, but it ceases to be effective the minute you take it off, hence, the reason we often have you wear the brace during exercise—to enhance the effectiveness of your strengthening.
Unloader braces have fared better in most studies. These braces actually alter the way muscles contract, effectively relieving pain and improving knee function and endurance. They are quite expensive and can be uncomfortable to wear, however, and many patients find them too restrictive for long-term use.
Long story short? Think of knee braces as a tool in your therapy arsenal. The best nonsurgical chance you have to regain healthy knee function is through exercises that strengthen your hips and knees—and the best way to do that is through physical therapy.  Another influence on arthritis symptoms can be being overweight which can make mild to moderate arthritis feel like moderate to severe arthritis.  Working on a weight reduction program is another component to address in addition to bracing and physical therapy.    This in conjunction with bracing and physical therapy program provides the best chance of success.  We can advise you on the best use of a knee brace as part of a total exercise program designed to alleviate your arthritis symptoms.

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
Tom Willemann

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