To Brace or Not to Brace
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/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2020

To Brace or Not to Brace

If you’ve ever suffered from knee pain, you may have wondered if a brace might help. The answer is a solid ‘maybe.’ According to SVMC Orthopedist Dr. Suk Namkoong, there are pros and cons to knee bracing.

He says, “In some instances, a brace can be a very helpful. It all depends upon the injury or condition and the individual.” Here’s a look at a few of the pros and cons related to bracing:

PROs: Braces

  • Provide extra support which can aid healing and prevent re-injury
  • Are readily available and affordable
  • Are a non-invasive option for addressing pain issue

CONs: Braces

  • Can be uncomfortable
  • Tend to move and need to be readjusted regularly
  • When overused, may weaken the muscles that support the knee and lead to dependency

Namkoong notes that braces are really designed to be used intermittently. “That makes them ideal for use when an injury, such as a sprain, first occurs or when engaging in an activity where you might reinjure yourself—things like hiking, pick-up basketball, skiing, etc. I’m less likely to suggest a brace for chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, which would necessitate wearing it daily.” 

He explains, “Because a brace limits the mobility of your knee, the muscles and tendons that normally support your knee tend to weaken. When the brace is not being worn, the risk of further injury and even functional loss of the knee goes up significantly.”

Namkoong says it’s not unusual to see patients who have become overly dependent on their brace after an injury. “In those instances, I recommend the patient work with a physical therapist or an athletic trainer. They can provide a program to safely help you rebuild the needed muscle strength over time and help you wean off the brace.”

For patients for whom a brace is recommended, Namkoong advises them to be prepared for a little trial an error when searching for the right brace.

“There are many, many different kinds of braces and, unfortunately, I can’t point to one brand or product that will work for everyone,” he says. “The best thing you can do is take it home and try it out. You tend to know pretty quickly if it’s going to work. If you have to tug at it regularly to keep it in place, take it back and keep looking.”

While custom fitting is an option, it’s not ideal, says Namkoong.

“First, the idea is to not wear a brace constantly. But, if an individual is essentially crippled without one, a custom option is the way to go. However, not all insurance plans cover custom braces and they can get pricey.”

He adds that there are number of custom brace companies offering service in our area. “They often come to your home to do fittings and advise you on options.”

If you have questions about custom fittings or brace use in general, contact SVMC Orthopedics at 802-442-6314.

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