What is an Offloading Knee Brace?
An offloading knee brace is a device worn on the leg and knee that is designed to help align this part of the leg back to its correct position. It is also intended to help alleviate pain and reduce the weight that is bearing down on the affected area of the joint. An offloading knee brace is part of many physical therapy treatment programs post-injury to allow the wearer to remain active during the recovery process and to stop any more pressure from further damaging the joint.
Patients who wear an offloading knee brace are typically those with ankle and foot injuries, such as peripheral nerve damage, drop-foot, and fractures. They are also worn by those who have just undergone multiple surgeries in the leg and foot area, and those who have had an elective amputation or had ankle fusion surgery.
An offloading knee brace is usually made of a lightweight yet very strong carbon fiber material, making it suitable for daily use and even for high-impact movements. It is not recommended for wearers who have open wounds or excessive swelling on the lower limbs.
*Note: if you experience any swelling, skin irritation, or any adverse reactions while wearing your knee brace, consult your physician right away.
How Does Wearing a Brace Help?
An offloading knee brace’s primary purpose is to correct compensation patterns following a surgery or injury. A compensation pattern occurs when the body tries to adopt to a misalignment by sending out incorrect musculoskeletal signals. By correcting this pattern, your body can go back to its natural way of moving faster.
By wearing the brace, the misaligned areas of the knee are fixed, thereby forcing those muscles that have not been active since the injury to get fired back up again. When an offloading knee brace is worn over a long period of time, there is a higher chance for the affected leg to start functioning normally again.
How Long Does a Knee Brace Need to be Worn?
The length of time needed for an offloading knee brace to be effective depends on the degree of injury, and patients will have to follow a schedule that the physical therapist sets to wear it or take it off. You don’t wear a knee brace 24/7.
To illustrate more clearly, think of a brace as an exercise routine for your affected limb. If your leg muscles, which haven’t moved for a long time, suddenly start moving again, expect the area to feel sore for a while. The point is to gradually use it over short periods of time to help your body adjust and avoid complications.
Do You Need to Wear a Brace for the Rest of Your Life?
That depends on the degree of the injury or arthritic condition. If your case is minor, you can stop wearing the knee brace once the deformity has been corrected and your joints are realigned. However, if it is severe, you might need to wear an offloading knee brace every time you have an activity requiring movement. So yes, given the severity of the injury or muscle condition, you might need to wear a brace for the rest of your life. Note that severe cases require that you wear your brace longer than 30 minutes for you to achieve its full benefits. In any case, it’s best to consult with your therapist and physician to determine the best course of action for your case.
Do you have any questions about offloading knee braces and whether or not you need one? Get in touch with our experts at Push Pounds Sports Medicine for a consultation.