Saturday, February 9, 2013

Knee Supports

I have chondromalacia, and osteoarthritis in my knees. Apparently when I was thrown from a horse back in the seventies, it took its time catching up with me.

One of the recommendations for the kind of injury I have is a compression or elastic knee brace. These are usually inexpensive  (although there's some with elaborate webbing, and gel inserts that cost up to a $100). Most of these seem to have been designed for men, and certainly everywhere I look, people complain of fit, wear, and loss of elasticity. Fortunately, they're mostly inexpensive, so buy a new one if the old one doesn't work.

I'm unlucky in that I'm exactly between a medium and a large, so I've had unique fitting problems.

First off, expense doesn't seem to be relevant. In looking at Amazon reviews I've seen no correlation between expense and usefulness. I'm just using the cheap ones from the drug stores. It's a good place to start. Based on Amazon reviews, picking a knee brace appears to involve a lot of hit or miss selection, or  you just get lucky on your first try.

Secondly, I picked ones that won't hurt me. Some braces involve tabs and gel and neoprene. The neoprene ones are just too hot and make your leg sweat, anything based on neoprene is dead to me.

I started with the closed knee brace from Futuro. This is little more than an elastic tube but it's more breathable than neoprene.
I found that in this one, I'm better off with a medium. Even though I'm in the range for a large, it just folds over and slowly slips down my leg. The medium seems to get tighter during the day, but it doesn't fold over *as much* as the large.  So if you're between sizes with this, you might consider trying the smaller one first. This knee brace is less noticeable than the other.

The other brace I tried has plastic boning along the sides and an opening over the knee. In this one the boning keeps it from rolling down from the top. I went with a large.

I liked this one more than the closed knee one, but it's too bulky for daily wear. I've come to think of this one as 'good enough to skate in'. The boning gives a little rigidity, but don't mistake it as supportive as those articulated knee braces you see some skaters wear. This design is mostly about keeping the kneecap from sliding around too much. The compression is just to keep it in place.

I've ordered a third one from Amazon. It's neoprene unfortunately, but it's called a shorty brace, so at least there's not much of it. It has a ridge of gel a the bottom of the patella and that looked promising.
Pro-Tec Knee Brace
Since I'm not jumping I don't 'kneed' elaborate or rigid braces. I need something just to add a little 'oomph' to get through the day. Right now these cheapies appear to be doing and adequate job, just don't expect them to last more than a fe weeks.

If you have a magic knee brace, I'd be interested in hearing about it.


  1. I wear a knee bandage sometimes (especially when hiking on rough trails in the NH mountains), but I can't find it on the internet today. Mine is Futuro brand, the brown, breathable elastic cloth. Mine has an inch wide funky section of reinforcement that goes mainly vertically also side-to-side in an elongated "S" shape. The idea is that the reinforcement goes next to the knee cap and help improves how it moves. The bandage is labeled with "left" on one side; turn it inside out and it's labeled "right", as the reinforcement now curves to the other side. I've been very happy with this bandage, but I also had moderate good results with a plain elastic bandage. If I was buying today, I'd be tempted to buy this one:

    It's a pain being between sides - I have found that it's better to go with the smaller size, as a too big bandage is pretty much useless. Some uncomfortably-small bandages will stretch out over time.

    Hope you find something that works for you!

  2. I work in the health industry and would gently suggest seeing a prosthetist/orthotist. They are an allied health professional and specialise in making and fitting prostheses and braces/supports. They would be able to tell you exactly which brace to purchase, or, possibly create one for you.

    There are a range of compression socks and stockings available now, in varying degrees of pressure. I'm sure you will find something less bulky than the above elastic braces. Good luck!

  3. Babette--try for knee pads for dancers. They're gel kneepads in an elastic compression sleeve that extends a few inches above and below the knee. I use them under regular kneepads for extra support and bracing, and love them. They're also latex-free, which is why I sought them out in the first place. They're comfortable and come in different sizes, plus the compression will allow for being an "in-between sizes" issue.

    Hope this helps!