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How to Use Knee Braces

How to Use Knee Braces for Knee Injuries

In this video, Houston and Sugar Land Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. J Michael Bennett describes various knee braces that you can purchase over-the-counter at your local drugstore or a big box store like Target or Walmart. These knee braces have uses but they also have limitations, and Dr. Bennett describes how you might use these braces, and also when you should not use these knee braces.  He also talks about when you should see a knee specialist.

Dr. Bennett is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and a fellowship trained sports medicine specialist with offices in Sugar Land and in downtown Houston, in the Galleria area. He specializes in treating injuries and pathologies of the shoulders, elbows, hands and knees. He’s also earned a certificate of added qualification in sports medicine.

Here’s Dr. Bennett’s video on the topic of “How to Use Knee Braces”:


This is a summary of the video.

My name is Dr. J.Michael Bennett.  I’m an orthopedic and sports medicine physician practicing in the Sugar Land, Katy, and Houston TX.  I specialize in minimally invasive and

Image from an MRI examination of the knee with a displaced patella (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

open procedures involving shoulder, elbow and knee injuries and pathologies.  If you’d like to set an appointment to evaluate your knee injury, please call my office at 281- 633-8600.

Today we’re going over a topic that is often asked in our offices and we often see this online regarding bracing and braces for knee injuries.  We’re just going over a couple of knee braces that we have here, that you’ll run across in your local CVS’s or your Targets.  First off, a very popular brace that you’ll find a lot of people wearing, particularly when they come into the clinic is this neoprene knee brace here. [demonstrates the neoprene brace]

It’s basically a circumferential brace, there are no holes.  Sometimes you can find a variation of this brace with a hole in the middle where your kneecap goes.  These knee braces are not necessarily braces — all they are is a sleeve.  If you have any mechanical issues with your knee such as a ligament issue or your knee is unstable, these are not going to help you because the ligament issue is a mechanical issue.

These neoprene knee braces are good primarily for swelling.  If you have any puffiness in your knee. a little arthritis in your knee, you may want to purchase one of these and just use it if you notice any swelling going on in the knee, in addition to doing some ice therapy and maybe taking an anti-inflammatory medication, if it’s recommended by your physician.  But be warned.  The more you wear these knee braces, the weaker your quadriceps are going to get, because your body depends on the brace to stabilize your knee.  So these are very good if you’re having swelling.  If you want to decrease your swelling, you can use these, or if you’re playing a sport, but I would not use these on a daily basis.  If you’re having to use a neoprene brace on a daily basis or you have an instability of the knee, please see an orthopedic surgeon immediately and get an evaluation.

[demonstrates the lateral stabilizer knee brace or J brace]  The next type of brace is called a lateral stabilizer brace, and it’s is a little bit different.  It slides up on the knee like the last brace, unstraps here, here, and this is sometimes called a J brace. You slide this up, the kneecap actually goes in the middle here.  The reason this is called a J brace is because this provides a buttress of support here.  This is primarily for patients that have patellar instability.  If your kneecap is popping out of joint or riding up on the outside of the knee, this J support helps hold it in position.  Now all that these straps do on top is reinforce it, so they wrap over and they kind of hold that.   The brace holds the patella, that kneecap, in position so that it doesn’t pop out of joint or mal-track.

Once again, if you’re having multiple instabilities of the knee cap, and you’ve not been evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist, I do advise you to get it evaluated.  Because if you have multiple dislocations, you could be causing injury to the ligaments of the knee or you could be  injuring the cartilage underneath the kneecap, and knocking off small flaps or flecks of cartilage under the kneecap, which would increase your risk of arthritis and also increase your risk of recurrent dislocation — it will not get better.  So like before, you can find these over the counter and they might be able to help you temporarily, but if you have issues regarding kneecap instability, please see an orthopedic specialist or a sports medicine specialist.

[demonstrates the road runner or double-hinged knee brace]  The last brace here.  This is called a road runner brace, also known as a double-hinged brace.  The difference between this brace and all the other knee braces is that all the other braces are soft braces.  This brace actually has a hinge with a metal bar on either side.  This brace allows you to bend your knee.

So you basically slide the brace on and it’s got multiple straps that wrap around the brace to fit it to your knee.  Now this brace is better for ligament injuries, particularly for injuries of the medial collateral ligament and lateral collateral ligament, which are the ligaments on the inside and the outside of the knee.  This is not necessarily as good for an anterior cruciate ligament injury, due to the fact that this brace does not help prevent rotation at the knee joint.  It may help varus or valgus, which is bowleggedness or knock-kneed or side-to-side instability, but it’s not going to help you with rotational instability.

But if you have to have something to give you some support until you see an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist, this is probably the best kind of brace you’re going to be able to get over the counter, until you see your specialist and they want to give you some sort of custom anterior cruciate ligament brace, or a custom brace to use for posterior cruciate ligament injuries.  However, the road runner or double-hinged knee brace is good for MCL sprain or an LCL sprain, or even just a ligament sprain in the knee.

As I mentioned before, it’s not going to control for rotational instability.  Rotational instability is very hard to control for, even in a custom brace.  So if you do have rotational instability, meaning instability or looseness in the knee when you twist or turn, then please get your knee evaluated by an orthopedic specialist or a sports medicine specialist because you may have a cruciate ligament injury, and it needs to be diagnosed.  If you fail to treat a rotational instability problem of your knee, you’re going to cause further damage to your cartilage, such as your meniscus or even your articular cartilage, which is the lining of the joint.  And you’re going to significantly increase your risk for arthritis and problems down the road.

So as usual, please visit my websites, for more information.  If you do have any questions or you’d like a consultation, please call our office at 281-633-8600.  Thank you very much.

Dr. J. Michael Bennett

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