Part of the Reflex treatment program for many patients is the use of an offloading knee brace. This device is designed to re-align the leg back into proper position as well as lessen the pressure being placed on a worn down area of the knee joint, resulting in immediate knee pain relief when being active, and stopping additional wear and tear on the joint.
How does wearing a brace help?
In our recent blog on physical therapy we talked about compensation patters, what they are and how they occur. The offloading brace is another tool that can be used to correct compensation patters. When wearing the brace, it is repositioning and realigning the knee. This is forcing muscles to fire and work that have been dormant since the compensations began. By wearing the brace for long periods of time over many months, it can actually retrain the leg to move correctly.
How long does it need to be worn?
Think of the brace as a workout for the leg. When a person has not worked out in a long time and suddenly works out really hard, they are sore for a few days after the workout. Like returning to regular exercise you want to start slow and build overtime. If a patient wore the brace all day right away they could experience some form of tendonitis, muscle discomfort, or joint pain (ligament pain); because the brace is shifting and re-aligning the joint which forces ligaments, tendons, and muscles to move and shift in a way they are not used to. By wearing it for shorter increments when being active your body can slowly learn to retrain all the moving parts for correct alignment without complications. Each patient will receive a specific bracing schedule from the exercise physiologist when they receive a brace.
Will it have to be worn for the rest of your life?
The answer to this depends on the degree of arthritis and the amount of deformity in the knee. For minor arthritis, once the deformity has been corrected, and the muscles have become strong enough to stabilize the knee without the brace, then wearing the brace is not needed anymore. For more advanced arthritis, once the deformity has been corrected and the muscles have become strong enough to stabilize the joint without the brace, then daily wearing of the brace is not needed. However, with severe arthritis, it is important to continue to wear the brace for any activity that stresses the leg for more than 30 minutes.
The offloading brace is a great lightweight non-invasive tool that can be used to help reduce pain, retrain the leg to move correctly, and get patients back to life!