The Functionality of a Knee Brace with a Hinge.

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  • Post last modified:October 6, 2023

It has become very common to observe athletes donning hinged knee braces, whether on the bench recuperating from an injury or on the field or court engaging in the game. These braces aren’t only for athletes, either. Anyone dealing with persistent knee pain or in the process of recovery from surgery can benefit from the appropriate hinged knee brace. But how does a hinged knee brace aid in alleviating pain and safeguarding the knee?

How does a hinged knee brace operate? Hinged knee braces exert pressure on different parts of the leg to hinder specific movements. They stabilize the joint and shield weak or injured sections of the knee. The hinges themselves enable controlled bending and extending of the leg. They also ensure that the knee flexes and extends in a completely straight motion. This serves to eliminate unnecessary strain on injured or weak areas of the joint.

Where that pressure is applied depends on the movements you are attempting to restrict or the loads you aim to alleviate. Studies have revealed that hinged knee braces absorb force and torque during athletic activities, as well as everyday motions. There are various types of hinged knee braces for all sorts of knee injuries and pain. Familiarizing yourself with these types and their functions will assist you in determining the most suitable brace for your needs.

Do I Need A Hinged Knee Brace?

Whether you require a hinged knee brace or not hinges on the level of support needed for your joint. The severity of the injury or pain determines the amount of support you are likely to require. Knee braces can be categorized into three levels of support.

– Light support: Braces with light support allow for the greatest range of motion in the knee and provide minimal added stability. They typically consist of straps or sleeves and are used for mild conditions.

– Moderate support: Braces that moderately control motion around the knee while still allowing some mobility. They are commonly employed for more painful injuries and permit athletic participation. Moderate support braces utilize hinges, metal stays, and substantial strapping.

– Total support: Total support braces immobilize the knee. They are employed immediately following reconstructive surgery. Total support braces incorporate metal stays, significant strapping, and hinges that can unlock to allow mobility as the knee heals.

If you only require light support for your knee, a hinged knee brace is unnecessary. However, if you necessitate moderate to total support, then a hinged knee brace is the appropriate option to prevent further injury and alleviate pain.

How Does A Hinged Knee Brace Assist?

The three most prevalent hinged knee braces are designed for very specific purposes. Your need for a hinged knee brace will determine how the brace can aid in addressing your knee injury or pain. Here are the most common hinged knee braces and their potential benefits.

– Prophylactic Knee Braces: Prophylactic knee braces are employed to prevent knee injuries, mainly in contact sports like football. They are most effective in safeguarding the medial collateral ligament (MCL). They prevent side-to-side forces on the knee by applying lateral leverage on the femur and tibia.

Prophylactic knee braces can have one-sided or two-sided hinge systems. The one-sided system has a hinge on only one side of the knee, while the two-sided system has hinges on both sides. A prophylactic knee brace would be the suitable brace for you if:

  • You engage in contact sports
  • You have experienced an MCL injury in the past
  • You have recently undergone surgery on your MCL
  • Functional Knee Braces

    While a prophylactic brace is utilized to prevent future injuries, the functional knee brace is utilized after an injury has already occurred. Functional knee braces are employed to enhance stability in the knee following an injury or surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

    Additionally, they offer mild to moderate stability to the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) or MCL. This can be achieved by applying leverage to resist abnormal forward movement of the tibia on the femur or preventing excessive tibial movement past the femur. Functional Knee Braces are two-sided. A functional knee brace would be appropriate for you if:

    • You have just undergone reconstructive knee surgery
    • You have sustained an injury or tear in your ACL
    • You partake in activities that necessitate rapid changes in direction

    Unloader/Offloader Knee Braces

    Unloader/Offloader knee braces are utilized to assist individuals with arthritis in their knees, particularly knee osteoarthritis. They accomplish this by relieving stress from the joint through exerting additional pressure on the femur. This compels the knee to bend away from the area of the joint that causes pain.

    Unloader/Offloader knee braces are one-sided. An unloader/offloader knee brace would be suitable for you if:

    • You suffer from knee osteoarthritis
    • You are scheduled to undergo knee surgery and require temporary pain relief

    Choosing A High-Quality Hinged Knee Brace

    Not all hinged knee braces are suitable for everyone. There are numerous factors to consider when selecting a hinged knee brace. If you have recently undergone reconstructive knee surgery, it is advisable to adhere to your doctor’s recommendation. However, if you are shopping for yourself, here are some aspects to bear in mind to ensure you procure the highest quality hinged knee brace for your needs.

    Price

    This is likely the most crucial factor for most shoppers, especially if your medical insurance does not cover the expenses. It is tempting to assume that the more expensive the brace, the better the quality, but that is not always the case.

    You can find a hinged knee brace that aligns with both your needs and your budget. Do not be deceived by high price tags. Seek out the features necessary for your pain or injury and then search for the best price. Reading reviews should aid you in determining if a particular brace is worth its price.

    Comfort

    As much as price dominates our thoughts, comfort is perhaps the most crucial aspect to consider.

    You might potentially have to wear the brace for hours each day. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, then you are in trouble.

    Look at the materials it is constructed of and if it has the flexibility to adjust the straps. Some hinged knee braces even have cushioned hinges, so the hinges don’t cause any discomfort.

    Dimensions

    Obtaining the appropriate size hinged knee brace is not only vital to your comfort, but also to the stability of your knee. It is important that when worn, the hinges of the brace are aligned with the femoral condyles of your knee. If not, you are not receiving the structural support that the braces should provide and potentially risking further injury.

    It is also crucial that the circumference of the brace is the correct size. The proper compression is important for stability and pain relief. If the brace is too tight or too loose, you will not experience the benefits that a hinged knee brace offers.

    If you are not having the brace sized by a physician, pay attention to the sizes offered by the brace manufacturer. You should also examine sizing charts before purchasing, or you risk severe discomfort or, worse, further injury.

    Design

    There are a few different designs of hinged knee brace. The type that is most suitable for you will depend on your injury or where the pain is located, and the level of pain you are experiencing. The variation in designs is primarily related to the method of putting on the brace.

    • Cover: This simply slides over your knee. It can be snug when putting it on, so it is a better choice if you are trying to prevent injury and not experiencing pain. Pulling it over a painful knee will most likely result in more pain.
    • Cover with straps: This is put on in a similar manner to the cover, but the straps are looser. You slide the brace up over your knee, and once it is in place, you tighten the straps to ensure the compression is suitable for your injury or pain.
    • Wraparound: A wraparound knee brace lays behind the knee. You then tighten the straps, wrapping the brace around your leg and providing the appropriate compression for your injury or pain. This is a good choice if your injury or pain makes it difficult to reach your feet. It is also convenient if you want to put it on and take it off without removing your shoes.

    Another common design aspect that is unrelated to the method of putting on the brace is an open or closed patella: this affects compression and the ability to ventilate. Braces can become warm and sweaty; an open patella can help prevent this from happening.

    Crucial Features of High-Quality Hinged Knee Braces

    In addition to general factors to consider when looking for a high-quality hinged knee brace, there are specific features that an effective hinged knee brace will possess. These are the things that you should ensure the knee brace has before making a purchase.

    Thermal Heat Regulation

    As previously mentioned, knee braces can become warm and sweaty, especially when used for athletic activities. The heat and sweat can lead to moisture accumulation, which invites bacteria and unpleasant odors. To aid in thermal regulation, look for the knee brace to be constructed with:

    • Neoprene
    • Lycra
    • Meshed or webbed backing
    • Moisture-wicking
    • Open patella

    Featherweight

    Not only do you desire your hinged knee brace to be temperature regulated, but you also want it to be featherweight. This will make utilizing the brace during athletic activities that much simpler. You should look for many of the same materials that make a brace breathable, like:

    • Neoprene
    • Lycra
    • Meshed or webbed backing

    Washable

    Even with a featherweight temperature regulated design, you are going to perspire in and dirty your knee brace. There is no way around it. So, it is crucial that the brace not only be washable but that it maintains its shape. A high-quality hinged knee brace should be able to endure several cycles through the washer and dryer without losing its ability to stabilize your knee.

    Advanced Compression

    The key to a hinged knee brace and the stability it provides is the compression of the brace. Where that compression is placed assists with specific knee issues. A high-quality hinged knee brace will enable you to adjust that compression, so you are obtaining the most out of the brace.

    One crucial feature to look for when it comes to compression is medical-grade Velcro. Resilient Velcro allows for snug adjustable compression. It also ensures that the brace maintains the compression during strenuous activity. This is especially important with prophylactic braces that are used while playing contact sports.

    Hinges

    The most crucial part of a hinged knee brace is the hinges themselves. There are certain characteristics that you should be seeking in the hinges of your brace if you desire a high-quality hinged knee brace. Here are some hinge attributes that you can find in some high-quality braces.

    • Detachable hinges: Some high-quality hinged knee braces have hinges that can be detached from the sleeve. This makes the brace more versatile by giving you the option of having the stability of the hinges or of having a broader range of motion if needed.
    • Multicentric hinges: If you are recovering from surgery, you are probably going to want to limit your range of motion. Multicentric hinges will allow you to set how far you can extend and flex your knee until you have fully recovered.
    • Padded hinges: Comfort is important, so high-quality hinged knee braces with cushioned braces are crucial. Hinges may press down on your knee to maintain the needed stability. Cushions will alleviate some of the pressure and chafing.

    Warranty

    Obviously, this isn’t a design feature of the hinged knee brace, but it can be just as significant. With comfort and size being crucial to the function of the brace, you want to be able to return the brace if it is not working for you. It is also a very technical piece of equipment, with parts that can easily deteriorate or not function properly.

    You want the manufacturer of a high-quality hinged knee brace to stand behind their work. The best way to have faith in the quality of the brace is with a long, fully covered warranty or return policy.

    Advantages of Hinged Knee Brace

    There are a broad variety of advantages to acquiring a hinged knee brace over other types of braces. A hinged brace can be used in many situations and is extremely versatile. It can be an important piece of equipment in preventing injury, alleviating pain from an injury, or recovering from an injury.

    Preventing an Injury

    A hinged knee support can be advantageous even if you don’t have an injury. A hinged support provides more stability than a regular sleeve support, making it useful in contact sports or athletic activities that require you to make quick cuts and sharp moves.

    The hinges aid in stabilizing the knee, safeguarding your ligaments from harm. If you are participating in a sport that puts your knee at risk or you feel that you have weakness in the sideways movement of your knee, a hinged knee support may prevent injuries such as ligament tears from occurring.

    Assisting with Injuries

    Here are some of the injuries that can be aided by wearing a hinged knee support:

    • Ligament injuries: A hinged knee support is excellent at assisting with rotational stability in the knee. This means that it is perfect for aiding in the stabilization of knees after injuring the ACL, MCL, and LCL. A hinged knee support can be used after minor damage to a ligament, during the recovery of reconstructive surgery on a ligament, or after you have recuperated from an injury or surgery
    • Cartilage injuries: If you damage the cartilage in the knee, such as tearing your meniscus, a hinged knee support can help you manage the pain. In many cases of a torn meniscus, the knee is swollen and painful and tends to feel unstable. A hinged knee support will help stabilize the joint, making it less painful and preventing it from giving out.
    • Arthritis: Hinged knee supports are perfect for individuals suffering from knee osteoarthritis. With the appropriate compression, the hinged support can relieve pressure on the joint and provide relief from the pain. There are also cases of arthritis where one side of the knee has become more degenerated than the other. A hinged knee support can correct the alignment, alleviating pain, and correcting your gait.

    Knee fractures: A hinged knee support, similar to arthritis, can relieve pressure on healing bones in the knee. For certain fractures, this support can have you up and walking while the bone is still healing. By reducing the force on the bone, the support makes the knee less painful. Common fractures that a hinged knee support can help you recover from include tibial plateau fracture and kneecap fracture.

    Patella tendinitis: Tendonitis is an overuse injury usually caused by improper or misaligned rotation, extension, or flexion of the knee. The pain occurs because the overuse has made the tendons intolerant of the force exerted on them. A hinged knee support can readjust the incorrect movements and facilitate adequate healing to take place.

    After Surgery

    The polycentric hinge makes a hinged knee support the perfect support for recovery from knee surgery. This hinge allows you, or your physician, to control the degree of extension or flexion permitted by your surgically repaired knee. As your knee heals, the hinge can be adjusted to allow for more movement.

    If you have a hinged knee support with removable hinges, your support becomes a piece of equipment that you can use for any reason. If you have recovered from your injury and don’t feel you need the additional support of the hinges, yet still want some support for your knee, you can convert your support into a regular sleeve support by removing the hinges.

    The same support that was indispensable to your surgery recovery can help support your completely healed and stable knee.

    How to Wear A Hinged Knee Brace

    The manner in which you don your hinged knee brace is contingent upon the style of brace you are utilizing. There are three fundamental styles of hinged knee braces. The method of putting them on is akin; however, there exist variations that make certain styles more suitable for specific injuries or types of discomfort.

    Sleeve Braces

    These represent the most elementary style of a hinged knee brace. They are simple to put on but may instigate pain issues with specific injuries. These are most effectively employed as preventative measures rather than for recuperation from an injury. Follow these instructions to put on a sleeve brace:

    1. With your shoe removed and the patella opening of the brace facing outward, draw the sleeve over your foot and up your leg.
    2. Stop when your patella is protruding from the patella opening and the hinges are aligned with your femoral condyles.

    Sleeved Braces with Straps

    These braces are similar to sleeve braces, except they incorporate Velcro straps to provide targeted compression to the knee joint and its surrounding areas. They generally fit more loosely than a standard sleeve brace, allowing for tightening with the straps. However, the process of putting them on is comparable:

    1. With your shoe removed and the patella opening of the brace facing outward, draw the sleeve over your foot and up your leg.
    2. Stop when your patella is protruding from the patella opening and the hinges are aligned with your femoral condyles.
    3. Pull the straps over your thigh and lower leg until the brace is sufficiently taut to prevent movement or until the desired compression is achieved.

    Wrap Around Brace

    These braces are ideal for injuries that cause intense pain around the knee, such as post-surgery or arthritis. Unlike sleeve braces, these are not pulled over the potentially painful area. Here’s how to put on a wraparound hinged knee brace:

    1. Unfold the brace and align it with the back of your leg, behind the knee. The larger flaps should rest on top, behind your thigh.
    2. Bring the flaps over your thigh so that the Velcro secures the brace around your leg.
    3. Ensure that your kneecap aligns with the patella opening, and then bring the flaps over your shin, closing the brace around your leg.
    4. Thread the smaller Velcro straps through the openings on both the top and bottom, and tighten them until you achieve the desired snugness.

    Final Considerations

    1. Proper sizing is crucial: If you have any uncertainties or concerns, it is advisable to have the brace fitted by a medical professional. Wearing the wrong size brace could potentially cause more harm. It may even be advantageous to have your doctor present during the initial wearing of the brace.
    2. Adhere to care instructions: It is imperative that you avoid actions that may impair the proper functioning of your brace. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines for care and meticulously follow all provided directions.
    3. Wear the brace according to instructions: This is especially crucial if you are recovering from surgery. Wear the brace during any activities that may pose a risk to your knee, but always adhere to the specific orders of your doctor.
    4. Monitor your skin frequently: It is possible that the brace may cause redness, dryness, or painful irritation. You may need to apply a bandage over irritated areas or use a topical cream for moisturization. Consult a physician if the irritation persists.
    5. Exercise caution: Hinged knee braces do not guarantee that your knee will remain unharmed.

      • Aid, assist, or support will aid in preventing harm and reducing discomfort. However, it is still imperative to exercise caution in scenarios where your knee is at risk of further injury.