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Essentially a knee brace is designed to offer compression and stability or both. The type you choose is dependent on the type of injury sustained and the level of protection you require. If you suffer from a mild sprain then you don’t necessarily need the same sort of knee brace that the British snowboarding team use as it would be a little over the top. Likewise if you’re hitting the slopes and want to protect your knee from injury then anything other than a rigid carbon fibre brace to protect against impact would be unwise. The choice is up to you and if you are ever stuck then you should speak with a clinician.
A compression brace or sleeve is designed just for that, helping to manage inflammation and as a byproduct helping to reduce pain levels associated with the injury and the inflammation. These can be worn following a mild sprain.
A stability brace comes in two options, combining compression or just offering stability on its own. A stability and compression knee support is designed to keep you mobile following a bad sprain, where it can be difficult to bear weight when active. The compression helps to manage the inflammation in the joint whilst the straps act as external ligaments to offer a greater level of support. The second type of stability brace is as mentioned, something rigid which is purely designed to offer stability (normally following ligament damage) and / or protection from subsequent injury. These types of braces are worn in extreme sports such as snowboarding, skiing, wakeboarding and motocross as crashing out at speed can have severe consequences to your knee, amongst other joints.
It is also worth noting that there are immobilising knee braces available which are typically used post-surgery to stop the joint from moving and undoing the work of the surgeon.
Following ligament damage you should look at a hinged brace offering compression to manage inflammation and to keep you mobile for longer. The straps act as external ligaments to offer an additional level of support.
At the top end of the market there is the Form Fit Knee Support which offers the highest level of support from a soft support. We refer to it as a soft support as the next level up is a rigid ligament brace but these are designed for extreme sports and not cycling down the local canal towpath. If however you decide to start trying to jump the canal on your bike then maybe you should take a look.
In considering degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis then a standard knee brace may not cut it and you need something clinically proven for managing the condition. It is important to select the right osteoarthritis brace as otherwise not only will you continue to be in pain when cycling but you’ll also further damage your knee joint which could bring forward the need for surgery. A brace can help to reduce pain and reduce the degradation of the cartilage within the joint, therefore delaying the need for surgery.
Before you make a purchase you should check the indications for use listed against each brace to ensure you select the right brace for your injury.
Cycling based knee injuries are typically following overuse so rest is important and they are all largely self-limiting.
Managing inflammation through bracing
Following a fall or crash inflammation is going to be the main problem and whilst it will resolve itself following a few days of rest a compressive support can also help as part of that treatment as well as offering pain relieving benefits.
Managing Ligament Damage
Where there is a degree of instability i.e. you are not fully confident putting your entire weight on the affected joint, then you should opt for a strap based support. Many compressive supports are also available in a strapped version, with these straps acting as external ligaments to offer an additional level of support when active.
The level of support required in your brace depends on the severity (grading) of the injury and this is normally only diagnosed via an ultrasound, so if you are ever unsure then it is also advisable to get too much support rather than not enough.
If you have a mild sprain and get a low level of support then it may do the job, but what if you’re late for the bus and need to run the last 100 yards to make sure you get it. Will the support be offering the right level of support then? And let’s be honest, there is no worse place to pick up an injury than on a mad dash to get on the bus (not to mention an increased amount of time laid off because of the injury and potentially additional expense with physiotherapy.
Medical professionals and injury related blogs are talk about the importance of diagnosis and how essential it is, and that’s because it is. If you go to the doctor with flu and he gives you medication to treat tonsillitis then it won’t do you much good, so treating a ligament sprain when you’ve actually got osteoarthritis is the same thing as it’s a different type of brace and instead of stability you need offloading.
What we’re saying is that following the injury follow the RICE protocols (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and if that doesn’t show any signs of improvement then you should speak with a doctor or clinical professional in order to get a complete and accurate diagnosis.