With all the options for knee bracing available, it can be a daunting task to try and pick the right one. Although there is no best brace or best brand, there certainly is the best brace for you and your needs. Here are a few things to consider when trying to find the right knee brace.
(1) What knee injury do you have? Brace selection will depend primarily on what condition you are dealing with. Specific braces are available to treat ligament strains, osteoarthritis, meniscal damage, and general knee pain.
(2) What are you using the brace for? We frequently see clients in way more brace than they need based on their activity needs. A ligament strain brace for a runner will likely be very different than a ligament strain brace for a basketball player. More brace (or a more expensive brace) isn’t necessarily better which leads us into…
(3) Compliance is everything! We would so much rather someone wearing a less supportive brace that’s comfortable than having a more supportive, uncomfortable brace sitting in the closet. Technology has changed so much in the bracing world that even the most supportive braces can be pretty low profile (thank goodness!). In fact, some of the soft sleeve compressive braces can be as effective as the rigid cage style braces depending on the injury. When cage braces are necessary, things like titanium frames, buckles for easy donning, liners to prevent slipping (etc!) can make huge differences in improving the overall fit.
(4) Understand how your knee brace fits into your overall treatment plan. How much and how long you wear your knee brace will depend on a variety of factors. For a patient very compliant with strength and mobility work, a brace may only be necessary for a short period of time to unload an area to heal quicker or get through a trip or sporting event. For someone with a more serious knee injury or short of time, the knee brace may need to be worn for longer. No right or wrong here, but important to know what options are available.
(5) Off-the-shelf vs Custom knee brace: Depending on leg shape, off-the-shelf braces are often a very viable option and definitely to be considered if you have an average shaped leg and when cost is an issue. The main benefits of custom made are the extended warranty (which can be very important if there is going to be leg size changes due to surgery etc) and the more obvious advantage of the customizing of the fit.