Knee pain can be a frustrating and limiting condition, preventing you from enjoying your favorite activities or performing daily tasks. Knee braces are one solution that many people turn to in order to alleviate their discomfort and regain their mobility. Although, is it okay to wear a knee brace all day and should you wear a knee brace to bed?
While this is a common remedy for lateral knee pain, medial knee pain and sharp knee pain in general, this article will share why even some of the best knee braces could actually be hindering your performance and setting you up for more dreadful hip and knee pain down the road.
Throughout this article we will equip you with the knowledge as to why utilizing knee braces is essentially just masking symptoms, dive into the scientific findings on this as well as provide solutions on how to get rid of knee pain fast. By the end of this article you will have a better understanding of why knee braces aren’t a solution and how Functional Patterns makes them obsolete.
Life With Knee Pain
While there are many ways pain in the back of the knee or nerve pain in the knee can occur, sudden twisting or bending of the joint beyond its normal range, overuse, repetitive strain and age-related wear and tear are the most common. People involved in consistent running and sports that involve running, jumping and lateral movement are more at risk for developing issues with their knees. This is where knee braces enter the picture for most as the device appears to offer a solution to pain along with joint security.
A common theme we see when people get injured or experience pain is the inability to rest and figure out the underlying causes. We will often see people replace unhealthy food options with healthier ones, but if one continues to overeat, this can also end up causing damage. As many use food to cope, exercise is no different.
Seldom do we consider our mechanics when we are walking, running or playing sport. Although, when the tension is distributed proportionally throughout our body, things like walking and running become easier, which in turn leads to pain-free movement. This is exactly what we teach at Functional Patterns. Precision with our biomechanics is fundamental to our health and well being as gravity isn’t going anywhere. We must become competent in controlling our body through the big 4, which is, standing, walking, running and throwing if we ever expect to live life without knee pain.
Many are quick to slap on a knee brace they got on Amazon and continue with their daily runs. While the human body is incredibly resilient, ignoring signs of pain or using band aid approaches like knee braces to mask the symptoms, will only go so far until ending up with more debilitating and irreversible issues.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down and wears away, causing the bones to rub against each other. As a result, people with osteoarthritis experience pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in the affected joints. It is most common in older adults, but can also occur in younger people as a result of injury, overuse or genetic factors. The most common group of people that turn to knee brace support are individuals with osteoarthritis or chronic pain. While things like hinged knee braces and copper knee braces might improve pain temporarily, the question we must ask ourselves is how do we prevent the wear and tear from happening in the first place and how to fix it if we are already there?
A commonly asked question is, when should you wear a knee brace for pain?
It is typical that prior to and post knee surgery, there is a time period where you must brace the joint in order to prevent excessive ranges of motion that might further damage the tissue. This is the most understandable time one should be wearing a knee brace. There are also times following an injury that one may need to brace for the same reason, even though they may not be getting surgery. This is so the bone or tissues heal and then one can slowly wean off the brace. Other than these instances, sourcing out your behavioral and biomechanical deficiencies should be the main approach to solving your sharp or burning knee pain.
Frequently you will see athletes of all levels sporting a knee brace in hopes to add some extra security for their joints. While this may seem like a good approach there are many studies indicating that it may actually hinder performance.
One study found that athletes who wore knee braces had less output in terms of torque, less mobility in the knee joint, were slower during a stair run, and had more muscular fatigue after a 15 min bike ride. Every single metric measured in this study was worse when the subject was wearing a knee brace which indicates that we must be very cognizant of when we utilize this tool.
Another study found that wearing knee braces can increase pressure inside the muscles under the brace, reduce blood flow, and make the muscles tired too soon. This means that we need to be careful about using knee braces because they may not always be helpful. If you want to learn more about knee braces and their effects on performance, you can click on the link for a more detailed explanation.
When you wear a knee brace for arthritis or a meniscus tear, you are essentially putting a band aid on a deep wound and hoping for the best. The deep wound being your inefficient movement patterns that you aren’t accounting for. Although you might feel relief of certain symptoms, how do we know we aren’t setting the stage for more problems?
Disease and pain are a slippery slope and it is important understand how muscles themselves, when engaged optimally, act as an elastic brace for the joints. The body contains this amazing organ called fascia which is a thin layer of connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles, bones and organs in the body. It is an important structure that helps to connect and transmit mechanical forces between different tissues and organs. When your body utilizes this organ properly, joints no longer take the mechanical load, muscles do. At Functional Patterns we help people across all walks of life address their knee pain by learning how to utilize their fascia in reality. Helping people from cerebral palsy and parkinson’s disease to average joes and professional athletes, we are cracking the human biomechanics code which allows us to regain our natural tensile strength and not have to rely on band aid tools like hinged and copper knee braces for support.
When examining solutions and alternatives to wearing your knee brace for running or walking, Functional Patterns can help tremendously simply because we take into account all the variables when it comes to movement. When analyzing someones gait, we not only look at the knee, but also closely analyze what the pelvis and ribcage are doing in relation to the rest of the body, which is very indicative of why someone may be experiencing knee pain to begin with. Functional Patterns continues to provide hundreds of results throughout the world of people regaining control of their body and relinquishing their attachment to devices such as knee braces, walkers, canes etc. By training standing, walking, running and throwing, we are able to reintegrate the body to perform the way its supposed to and offload the joints in a safe and efficient manner.
The path to functionality does require work though. The Functional Patterns 10-week online course is an incredible place to start to get your mind and body on the right track. The first week of this course specifically addresses knee pain and the knowledge continues to build on top of itself week after week. The progression in this course is incredibly well thought out as it has helped a great number of people say goodbye to their stubborn knee pain.
10-week Online Course:
Although knee braces could be useful in certain scenarios, it is safe to say they are not a practical long term solution to your pain and performance issues. Understanding how to move more efficiently is the way to go as our muscles already act as braces for our joints. The continual dependence of wearing a brace for runners knee and utilizing a copper knee brace or a hinged knee brace, the more likely stiffness and atrophy will set in. We want the capacity for our joints to move pain-free independent of a crutch. At Functional Patterns we account for all the variables that make this possible, helping the body generate pain-free power.
- Khosravi M, Babaee T, Daryabor A, Jalali M. Effect of knee braces and insoles on clinical outcomes of individuals with medial knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Assist Technol. 2022 Sep 3;34(5):501-517. doi: 10.1080/10400435.2021.1880495. Epub 2021 Mar 11. PMID: 33507124.
- Houston ME, Goemans PH. Leg muscle performance of athletes with and without knee support braces. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1982 Sep;63(9):431-2. PMID: 7115043.
- Styf J. The effects of functional knee bracing on muscle function and performance. Sports Med. 1999 Aug;28(2):77-81. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199928020-00002. PMID: 10492027.
- Sforzo GA, Chen NM, Gold CA, Frye PA. The effect of prophylactic knee bracing on performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1989 Jun;21(3):254-7. PMID: 2733572.