Most of knee pads are intended to prevent knees injuries, therefore they are designed in different ways to protect knees against bruises, bumps, abrasions, wounds, inflammation, strains, dislocation and other knee injuries. However, knee pads are used not only for protective purposes, but also for medical purposes – knee supports such as pads, sleeves, straps and braces are used not only for knee protection against different injuries, but also for recovery after knee injuries or for relieving various knee diseases or interfering problems. For example, knee pads which are used for medical purposes are called medical knee pads, but their name also may be based on their functions or features, for example, hinged knee brace of patellar knee strap.
As mentioned before, there are a lot of knee supports types, and each of them is used in certain cases:
- Knee sleeves are knee supports which slide over the knee, and usually include an opening or padding for the kneecap, and buttress or straps which are surrounding the kneecap as well. Basic knee sleeves ensure compression, warmth and sense of knee support, but more advanced knee sleeves provide more advantages. Knee sleeves are recommended for reducing of swelling and treating of patellofemoral pain. Despite the fact, that knee sleeves are relieving swelling and providing a feeling of support, they are not providing knee stability after injury or surgery.
- Knee pads usually include straps which wrap around the leg or sleeve with additional padding or rigid outer shell which covers the front of the knee. Knee pads also are not providing stability, but they are reducing the risk of knee injuries, for example, bruises and abrasions during physical activities such as volleyball, football, skateboarding, biking and many others. Usage of knee pads also can prevent a formation of bursitis by preventing further repetitive injuries to the pre-patellar bursae. Knee pads can be used to prevent occupational diseases as well – those, who have a job which requires constant or long periods of time on their knees, for example, carpenters, gardeners and dancers, should use some cushioning on their knees, thereby preventing a lot of unnecessary pain and decreasing the risk of some occupational diseases.
- Basic patellar tracking orthosis braces or PTO braces include a knee sleeve which has an opening for the patella, and buttressing or straps around the opening. This buttressing or straps help to limit movement of the patella, thereby reducing possibility of its immobility or dislocation. These braces are recommended for reducing a patelloferomal pain and in cases of improper tracking of the patella. Generally they are meant to help stabilize the leg and reduce the pressure which is going through the joint, therefore knee braces are widely used in cases of arthritis. More advanced PTO braces have advantages such as hinge along the sides of the knee which is ensuring an additional sense of stability.
- Patellar straps or bands are intended for decreasing an anterior knee pain which usually is connected with knee diseases such as patellar tendonitis or Osgood-schalatter disease. These straps have to be positioned between the bump on the shin and the bottom of the kneecap, thereby applying pressure to the patellar tendon and relieving some stress on it and its attachment on the tibia.
- Hinged knee braces include one or two bars, hinges along the sides of the knee and straps which are holding a brace in place. All of hinged braces are designed to enhance stability by supporting ligaments of the knee. These knee braces are intended to improve the stability of an injured knee, to relieve knee pain and discomfort while waiting surgical reconstruction or to prevent injuries of reconstructed knee after surgery. Despite the construction of these knee braces they can be used for prevention of knee injury during contact sports, for example, during football trainings and games. More advanced and functional knee braces can be combined with metal, plastic or foam liners, which wrap around the leg, metal bars or hinges along both sides of the knee, which can be adjusted to specific range of motion. Hinged knee braces are adjustable to various amounts of range motion, they are allaying swelling better than splints and casts, and are easy to put on and put off.
It is important to know, that knee injuries may be caused not only by outer factors, for example, by blows or attrition, but also by untreated knee diseases or dysfunctions – the goal of any knee support is to work together with the innate knee structures to promote stability and reduce pain without loss of normal knee function, thereby reducing the risk of other knee injury. In one word, ignored knee disease or dysfunction can turn into even bigger problem that cannot be cured later. If knee functions are deficient, it is easier to get different knee injuries, for example, you can simply fall down and hurt oneself.
To find out, which of knee supports is appropriate for the individual case, you have to know, what kind of knee injury you have – whether it is injury of the bone (femur, tibia, patella) that make up the knee joint, the tendons or muscles (quadriceps, patellar tendon, hamstrings) that move the joint, the cartilage (medial or lateral meniscus) that cushions the joint, the ligaments (medial collateral ligament, lateral collateral ligament, anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament) that stabilize the joint. When it is clear, which of mentioned elements is defective, you can choose a support, which is the most appropriate for improving the situation.
You have to remember that all of knee supports must be undertaken in consultation with doctor, athletic trainer or other specialist, who specializes in the anatomy and physiology. Despite the fact, that a lot of knee supports are available without any prescription, actually they should be used only in cases where an accurate diagnosis is made and a recovery program is developed, because usually they are only one element of a treatment program, which includes physiotherapy, medications and other treating elements.