The knee joint is a complex joint that comprises the thigh bone, shin bone and the knee cap. In medical terminology, the thigh bone, shin bone and knee cap are referred to as femur, tibia and patella respectively. These bones are attached to each other through ligaments. Ligaments are tough bands of fibrous tissues that attach the bones to each other.
Besides these ligaments, the range of motion and stability of the knee joint also affects meniscus. The term meniscus refers to cartilage, which is a tough elastic tissue that acts as a protective cushion and prevents the ends of the bones from rubbing against each other.
Menisci or meniscal cartilages are located on the lateral and medial side of the upper surface of the shin bone. Though the cartilage helps in absorbing shocks and protects the knee joint as one flexes, extends or rotates the knees, these can get affected due to traumatic injuries.
Trauma to the knee or repetitive strain while playing sports can cause a meniscus tear, which in turn, may cause pain and other distressing symptoms. This is the reason why knee supports or braces are often used by those who play contact sports.
Doctors may also recommend the use of a knee brace to speed up the healing process in case of a meniscus injury. Given here is some information on why doctors recommend the use of a knee brace for meniscus injuries and how knee support braces help in healing a torn meniscus.
When are Knee Braces Recommended?
As mentioned earlier, a torn meniscus or a torn cartilage in knee is a common sports injury. Besides runners, people indulging in contact sports are also vulnerable to this condition. Trauma to the knee, repeated bending of the knee, misalignment of the knee cap or weakness of the thigh muscles are some of the reasons why one may suffer from a torn meniscus.
Traumatic injuries or stress injuries caused due to indulging in physical activities may lead to the irritation of meniscus, tendons or ligaments in children or young adults. Meniscus tears are usually categorized into three types. These include longitudinal, radial or bucket-handle tears.
On the other hand, old people may become vulnerable to such problems due to degenerative joint disorders. Osteoarthritis is one such condition that is characterized by the wear and tear of cartilage. This causes the edges of menisci to become uneven. At times, the bones may get weakened due to arthritis or osteoporosis.
Under these circumstances, even mild injuries can cause considerable damage to the anatomical features of the knee joint. Pain, swelling, stiffness, instability of the knee, locking of knee joint and restricted range of motion are some of the common symptoms of a meniscus tear.
Under these circumstances, RICE approach emerges as a preferred treatment approach. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Using knee supports or braces is also an important aspect of the treatment of meniscus injuries.
How do Knee Braces Work?
Prophylactic braces, functional braces, rehabilitative braces and unloader/offloader braces are some of the types of knee support braces that are commonly used for varied purposes. Many athletes don knee supports in order to avert knee injuries. It is however, important to select the right type of brace.
Generally prophylactic braces that are made from hinges, adhesive straps and bars are used for protecting the knee from damage that may occur while playing contact sports. Knee braces may also be used as a part of the treatment of a torn meniscus.
Though the use of drugs and application of ice packs helps in alleviating the symptoms to a great extent, it is the use of knee support braces that help in providing support to the affected knee. In fact, doctors usually suggest the use of a knee brace after a meniscus surgery. The surgery involves the removal of the torn cartilage or tissues.
Wearing functional or rehabilitative braces after the surgery helps in speeding up the recovery process and also provides protection to the knee during the recovery period. Rehabilitative braces comprise bars, hinges and foam liners. These hinged braces control or limit the movement of the affected knee while it is healing from a meniscus injury.
Both functional and rehabilitative knee braces stabilize the knee and also reduce the risk of injury to the other parts of the knee. Besides the aforementioned braces, unloader/offloader braces are recommended for those suffering from degenerative joint disorders. These take away the load from the affected knee joint and reduce pain.
This was some information on how knee braces help one to recover from a torn meniscus. The duration for which a knee support brace may need to be used would depend on the extent of damage to the meniscus.
A knee support brace helps in limiting the movement of the knee and certainly speeds up the healing process. Once the meniscus has healed, one may have to perform certain exercises to recover the normal range of motion of the knee.