Knee and ankle braces: types and uses

Knee and ankle braces: types and uses

A good knee or ankle brace can support the joint and limit movement as it heals. Find out more from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Physiotherapy Department.

Knee and ankle braces: how they can help you

Make sure you can choose the right knee brace for your type of injury.

There are braces for various joints such as elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, back and wrists. The most common types of braces are readily available from any pharmacy. However, for finer and specific braces, you'll need to order them online or through a medical supply company. Some custom braces require a prescription from a doctor.

What types of branches are commonly used in the lower extremities?

Broadly speaking, braces can be subdivided into the following categories based on their intended use.

1. Preventive (preventive) braces

These are used to prevent injuries or reduce the severity of injuries during sports. Evidence to support the preventive use of braces is limited.

2. Rehabilitation braces (fixators)

A doctor may prescribe a stent for someone who has recently been injured or had surgery. This brace is designed to protect the injured area while allowing a range of motion. The brace is usually worn for a period of time as directed by your doctor. Rehabilitation (eg, physical therapy management and/or exercise) usually begins with the use of a rehabilitation brace.

3. Functional Braces

These are used to support unstable joints to prevent re-injury. For example, functional braces may be appropriate for patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears or those who have undergone ACL reconstruction and wish to use an external brace to protect the ACL graft when returning to sports.

Semi-rigid lace-up braces can be used to prevent recurring ankle sprains during exercise. For movements that have more landing impact from jumping, rigid (lace or stirrup) supports are more appropriate. These braces will allow the ankle to move up and down, but will limit inward or outward movement.

4. Other types of braces

The braces mentioned above are mainly aimed at supporting joints with ligament damage. Other types of braces include:

remove braces

Unloading braces can be used for knee osteoarthritis that resides primarily in one of the three compartments of the knee joint. A brace can reduce pain or pressure associated with the degenerative compartment of the knee.

If the ankle has a bone, ligament, or tendon injury, the attending doctor may prescribe an unloading walker. It allows some weight bearing while providing some support and protection to the injured tissue.

Patellar Tendon Brace and Patella Stabilizing Brace (patella refers to kneecap)

Patellar tendon braces (knee straps) are used to support and redistribute forces across the patellar tendon. It is often used in situations such as "jumper knee".

Patellar stabilization braces are used to reduce compression of the kneecap and prevent it from moving too far out. It is commonly used for conditions such as anterior knee pain and patellar subluxation/dislocation and patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Compression Bandages, Ankle, Knee and Joint Pads

These are soft shields/sleeves with elastic components. They are used to provide some compression and reduce swelling.

Read on to learn about the benefits and selection tips of wearing a knee or ankle brace.

There are many types of knee and ankle braces on the market, and choosing the right one can be tricky if you don't know what to look for.

Who is most likely to need an ankle or knee brace?

Generally, knee ligament injuries occur in people who fall or sprain events or who participate in sports that require jumping, landing, cutting, or spinning. In Singapore, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are most common among those who play football, basketball and pitching. The typical age group for a patient with an ACL injury is 18-30 years old.

An ankle sprain can happen to anyone. A person may walk, miss a step and twist the ankle inward, resulting in a sprained ankle. Common in sports such as basketball and badminton that require jumping and landing.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee) commonly affects runners and people who participate in any sport that requires running. This was seen in a wider age group (15-40 years old) as interest in marathon running increased.

Patellar tendon pain is more common in athletes who participate in jumping sports such as basketball.

What are the pros and cons of wearing braces while exercising?

The advantage is:

  • increase stability
  • pain relief
  • Performance is enhanced when pain is reduced and stability is increased
  • greater confidence
  • Better spatial joint awareness

weakness is:

  • Limited speed, agility, and athleticism; potential performance degradation
  • Increased energy expenditure, leading to early fatigue
  • false sense of security
  • possible skin irritation and damage

Also, the brace may move during exercise and become less effective. Joints may also stiffen and increase stress on other joints. Muscles may also be less active.

What you should look out for in a knee or ankle brace

It is important to remember that a brace does not guarantee that your injury will not happen again. If you have been injured before, you must undergo an appropriate physical therapy rehabilitation program.

If you have recently been injured, or if an old injury is still problematic, you should seek medical help before starting to self-manage your condition with a brace. If necessary, your doctor can evaluate you and refer you for further tests or physical therapy.

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