The Benefits of Using a Brace for Runner's Knee

August 10, 2023

knee braceRunner’s Knee, which is also referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is an often painful condition of the front of the knee (patella), that can be brought about from excessive and frequent strain or overuse. This condition can be challenging to manage and is relatively common among highly athletic individuals who participate in sports or activities such as jogging, running, and intensive cycling

In this article, we will take a look at how wearing a brace can provide much-needed support for managing the condition, the different types of knee braces available, and other types of treatment options that can help to alleviate the pain and inflammation of runner’s knee. 

Do Braces Help Runner's Knee? 

Wearing a knee brace can help to manage the symptoms of runner's knee by providing a necessary level of support and stability to the joint. Knee braces help to alleviate pain by redistributing the pressure exerted on the kneecap, thus reducing the strain on the patellar tendon. Additionally, they can help control swelling and inflammation, thereby allowing you to continue walking, running, or biking with less pain. 

What Type of Brace is Best for Runner's Knee? 

There are a wide variety of knee braces available on the market, so determining the right type based on your specific needs can seem overwhelming at first. However, it's important for to consult with a qualified medical professional such as a physical therapist to successfully identify the best type of brace for your particular knee pain. Here are some common types of braces to consider: 

Patellar tendon straps: These are narrow bands that wrap around the knee just below the kneecap that are designed to provide targeted compression and support to the patellar tendon, which can relieve the pressure and pain associated with runner's knee. By keeping the knee in proper alignment, these straps can be helpful in reducing strain

Hinged knee braces: Offering more substantial support and stability to the knee joint, hinged knee braces are ideal for individuals with moderate to severe knee pain. Some hinged knee braces feature adjustable straps and metal hinges on either side of the knee for a customized fit, and can allow for movement of the knee while still providing an adequate level of support. 

Compression sleeve braces: These slip-on braces are the most simplistic types of knee braces, as they are just a tight sleeve around the joint that can help minimize swelling while enhancing self-movement. While they offer less support than hinged braces or patellar tendon straps, knee sleeves can still help alleviate pain and swelling associated with runner's knee, and are the least cumbersome kind of knee braces for managing runner’s knee. 

When choosing a knee support for running, it is also recommended to look for products made with moisture-wicking materials. These fabrics help to keep your skin dry by drawing sweat away from the body, reducing the risk of chafing and irritation that may exacerbate your knee problem. 

Should I Wear a Compression Sleeve for Runner's Knee? 

Knee compression sleeves can be an effective option for individuals with mild to moderate runner's knee symptoms. These sleeves are made from snug-fitting, moisture-wicking materials that apply even pressure to the knee joint, promoting blood flow and reducing inflammation. The compression can help alleviate pain and provide a sense of stability during running, allowing you to continue your exercise routine with minimal discomfort. 

However, it is crucial to choose the right size and fit for your knee compression sleeve. A too-tight sleeve may cut off circulation and cause discomfort, while a loose one will not provide adequate support or compression. 

What is the Best Treatment for Runner's Knee? 

While knee braces and compression sleeves can help manage the symptoms of runner's knee, it is essential to address the underlying cause of the pain to achieve long-term relief. Treatment for runner's knee typically involves a combination of the following strategies: 

Resting the knee: Taking a break from sports and physical activities that involve running, which raise the risk of strain and overuse, can allow the knee to properly heal and recover.  

Ice: Applying ice or cold packs to the affected knee can help reduce pain and swelling. 

Physical therapy:
A physical therapist can design a targeted exercise program to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint, improve flexibility, and correct any muscle imbalances that may be contributing to the problem. 

Orthotics and footwear:
Wearing the right shoes and using orthotic inserts for adequate arch support can help correct foot alignment issues that may be contributing to runner's knee. Consulting with a podiatrist, physical therapist, or other qualified healthcare professional is recommended to determine the best footwear and orthotics for your specific needs. 

Strengthening the thigh and hip muscles:
Strengthening these groups of muscles can help to take some of the weight and pressure off the knee joint. Regularly doing exercises can relieve the pain and improve joint function. 

Gradual return to activity:
As your knee begins to heal and the pain subsides, it's crucial to gradually reintroduce running and other activities. Rushing back into your usual routine can result in a recurrence of the issue. By working with a medical expert, you can develop a plan for a safe and gradual return to running and other physical activities. 

Wearing a knee brace or compression sleeve can be effective in managing the symptoms of runner's knee. However, it's essential to address the underlying cause of the problem through sufficient rest, physical therapy, wearing appropriate footwear with arch support, and gradually re-introducing physical activity rather than rushing back into it. By combining these strategies with the use of a knee brace, you can effectively treat runner's knee and get back to enjoying your favorite form of exercise pain-free.


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