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Knees and Thighs

 –  At drugstore.com we carry a wide variety of supports and braces that can be used to address or reduce the risk of injury, relieve pain, reduce the risk of blood clots, or help individuals stay active while an injured joint heals. A brace should be selected based on the condition one is looking to avoid or the specific type of injury that needs to be addressed. Here is a look at the types of braces available along with an explanation of how they can help.
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What Types of Knee Braces Are There?

There is a wide variety of knee braces available from drugstore.com. We also offer a full complement of supports including knee sleeves and straps. These can often offer some of the same benefits as a brace in situations where a brace is not necessary. Here is a look at the types of knee supports available along with some insight into their function and use.

What Is a Prophylactic Knee Brace?

Prophylactic knee braces are designed to protect the knee from injuries that can be sustained during high-intensity exercise. They consist of rigid bars and hinges, often seen externally, that allow for normal range of motion while resisting lateral movement. Lateral movement, usually due to sharp turns or impact, is the most common cause of knee ligament injury.

How Do Prophylactic Knee Braces Work?

These braces are commonly worn by football players, soccer players, hockey players, alpine skiers, and other individuals who participate in high-intensity, high-impact sports because they are considered highly effective.

Types of Braces

  • Functional braces are designed to support the knee while it heals. They come in four different configurations, each designed to address one of the four different ligaments commonly injured in the knee. The input of a physician is useful in selecting the correct functional brace and in knowing how long to wear it (sometimes for up to 12 months after injury).
  • Rehabilitative braces are designed to limit movement immediately after knee surgery. They are used for short periods of time (two to eight weeks) and are generally regarded as critical to successful post-operative recovery.
  • Patellofemoral (PF) braces are used to treat a pain syndrome that arises from misalignment of the patella (knee cap) and the femur (thigh bone). PF braces prevent the patella from moving laterally during flexion of the knee. Studies have produced conflicting evidence regarding the usefulness of these braces, but trial runs are recommended for people with patellofemoral syndrome. Off-the-shelf braces work well for most people, but custom-fitted options are available.
  • Unloader Braces are used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis by taking stress off of the knee. Studies show that these braces can reduce pain and joint injury, due to OA, by as much as 13%. They may allow people to walk farther (nearly a mile more in some studies) and to enjoy a better quality of life.

Types of Supports

  • Knee sleeves are usually made of neoprene or drytex and have no internal components (e.g. rods, hinges, etc.). They are often used by tennis players, joggers, and casual exercisers to improve knee stability and to prevent injury. They are the least expensive kind of knee support.
  • Patellar straps are worn below the knee where they help to reduce stress on the patellar tendon. They are intended to treat "jumper's knee," an inflammation of the patellar tendon that causes pain and stiffness in individuals who flex at the knees a lot (e.g. dancers, gymnasts, tennis players, etc.).
  • Thigh supports are also called compression stockings. They generally extend from the toes to the upper thighs, but there are stockings that extend only to the knee or only up the calf. Available are several different types of compression stockings that provide gentle to very strong compression. Gentle compression is normally used to reduce varicose veins and to relieve muscle aches. Moderate to strong compression stockings are used to reduce swelling and to prevent blood clots. One popular use of gentle compression stockings is for long periods of inactivity (e.g. riding on an airplane, long car trips, etc.).

Fitting Your Brace

You can fit your own brace but it is always better to talk to your doctor before using a brace. He or she can help you to determine the problem and identify the underlying cause. Once you know what the problem is, you can easily purchase a knee brace that meets your needs.

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