For all its complexity and adaptability, the human body is woefully susceptible to varying degrees of pain. From the sharp, stinging sensation of a paper cut to the dull ache of a muscle injury, our bodies are exceptionally fragile things that need to be treated gently to prevent injury.
Of course, for all the precautions we take to ensure our physical health and safety, some afflictions can strike out of nowhere or steadily develop over time before rearing their ugly head.
One such affliction which can go undetectable for a long time is arthritis. Though it is most commonly found in the elderly, all ages can develop mild to severe cases of arthritis after enough strain is placed on certain parts of the body. In particular, arthritis will develop in joints that have been overworked or underdeveloped. Knees, in particular, are prone to developing their very own brand of arthritis, which can be challenging to combat.
Osteoarthritis of the Knee
The specific case of arthritis that affects the knees is known as osteoarthritis, or by its more frequently used denomination, wear-and-tear arthritis. This causes the natural cushioning between joints (known as cartilage) to wear away, which subsequently causes the bones of the joints to rub together without the benefit of shock-absorbing cartilage.
In turn, this causes tremendous pain, as well as swelling and stiffness. In some cases, osteoarthritis can also lead to the formation of bone spurs.
Knee Braces – Helpful or Not?
Osteoarthritis has the potential to develop slowly over time or rapidly during old age. It is a complex condition that affects the entirety of the joint. The disease will usually be localized to just one side of the joint. However, the damage causes the knee to become misaligned, resulting in bow-leggedness.
Over time, the misalignment in the knee will grow more and more severe. Fortunately, while doctors cannot cure the condition on its own, a knee brace will help to ease the pain in the misaligned knee by taking some of the pressure off of the affected side of the joint. Feeling that your knees might buckle from under you is a good sign that you may be due for a knee brace.
Risks of Knee Braces
Though knee braces can sometimes help relieve the pain inflicted by osteoarthritis in general, some people may experience specific issues that will need to be considered beforehand. These risks and issues include:
- Discomfort: Wearing a knee brace takes some time to get used to. That being said, it can feel hot and heavy at first and sometimes feel as though it’s not a perfect fit, causing it to slip off.
- Irritation of the skin and or swelling: The skin directly beneath the knee brace is liable to become red and irritated if your knee brace is a poor fit. Some people also experience swelling around the affected joint.
- Stiffness: Because knee braces are so cumbersome, most who wear them inevitably end up compensating with their better leg, which can cause stiffness in the affected area. If this continues, even more issues may develop.
- Lack of consensus: Many people have provided testimony for the benefits that knee braces provided. However, many people report that knee braces do not help at all, or at least very minimally. There is a lack of consensus concerning whether or not knee braces actually help. However, one should note that they do not exacerbate osteoarthritis.
There may be more issues that you may face. It is essential to consult with your physician about the prospect of wearing a knee brace. They will be able to offer all the guidance and professional input relative to your specific situation.
Consulting Your Doctor
If you are ready to begin wearing a knee brace, meet with your doctor, who will advise you on the best course of action. Should you decide to wear a knee brace, your doctor will write a prescription for it, then refer you to an orthotist, a medical professional who designs, builds, and fits different apparatus meant to help people with orthopedic problems cope and improve their function.
However, knee braces (and other devices like them) can be pretty expensive, especially if they are custom-made. You should ensure that your health insurance provider will cover the cost. Otherwise, patients can buy ready-made braces for cheaper.
Knee Brace Expectations
As mentioned, some knee braces come in several ready-made sizes. Some designs include mechanisms that allow you to adjust the amount of pressure applied to your knee. This can be useful for conducting various activities which inflict varying degrees of pressure or strain.
Typically, ready-made braces can be purchased immediately, at which point you are free to use them as soon as you get the chance. However, custom knee braces take a lot of time to make – it can sometimes take up to an entire month or more before they are ready.
Custom Knee Brace Fitting
Should you choose to be fitted for a custom knee brace, you will need to meet with your orthotist. They will consider certain aspects of your condition, most notably the history of your osteoarthritis (i.e., when it began, how quickly it developed, etc.).
They will then perform some examinations. You will be asked about the activities you hope to improve with your knee brace, and the orthotist will take numerous measurements. Your orthotist will also ask you to walk a few paces to assess the condition in action.
Once the meeting is over and the measurements have been taken, your orthotist will begin work on your knee brace. However, as mentioned, it is likely that you will have to wait at least a month before it is ready.
Knee braces seem to hold different results for different people. Some adamantly proclaim their benefits, while others find none at all. At the very least, should you be afflicted with horrible pain as a result of osteoarthritis, it is worth consulting with your doctor to hear their thoughts.