What is a Kneecap?
Kneecap is a common name for a bone located in the front of the knee joint, known as patella. Patella is a flat triangular bone which covers and protects the knee joint. It helps us in extending our leg by enhancing leverage on the thigh bone.1
Apart from the anatomical kneecap, there is another type which is widely used for bracing the knee – also known as knee braces. These are either used on a painful knee, an injured knee or for preventing knee injuries – for instance, during sports.2
Kneecaps (or knee braces) are used in orthopedics for supporting a knee joint and to relieve pain and inflammation.
Various types of knee braces are available for different knee conditions and for prevention.
The most common kneecap injuries are fractures and dislocations. Fractures can happen due to a fall or trauma, during an accident or a sport. A patella can endure various types of fractures, such as stable, displaced, comminuted or open fracture.
Common symptoms of a patellar fracture are pain while straightening or extending of the knee; swelling on the surface of the knee; and bruising.3
A patella can be dislocated causing a complete or partial change in position of the bone from its anatomical position. A dislocation of patella can either occur from an abnormality in the structure of a knee joint or due to trauma.4
Other common conditions of patella are:
- Patellar Tendonitis – inflammation or irritation of patellar tendon.
- Patellar Chondromalacia – softening of the cartilage on the undersurface of patella.
- Patellar Subluxation – partial dislocation of patella.
Diagnosing a Kneecap Injury
Diagnosis is mainly based on physical examination and radiographic reports. X-rays help in confirming fractures, whereas, a thorough physical examination will help ascertain the type of injury to the knee joint and whether blood has pooled within the joint space.
In the case of fractures, if fractured pieces of the bone are displaced, a surgical treatment is required.
Whereas, if the fractured pieces remain at their anatomical positions, application of a cast or splint and immobilization of the joint facilitates bone healing. However, application of weight or pressure on the joint may not be possible immediately, till the bone heals.
In the case of a dislocated patella, it has to be repositioned by a surgeon. Often, such procedures require the use of analgesics.
If dislocation of a patella becomes recurrent, a surgical procedure may be recommended for permanent treatment.
If blood has pooled in the joint space due to injury, the surgeon may need to drain it out for pain relief.3
Now let’s talk about Knee Braces
As we discussed earlier, knee braces are used to support an injured knee and prevent severe injuries.
The types of knee braces available are:
- Functional – for supporting injured knees.
- Rehabilitative – for rehabilitation of injured knees and to facilitate controlled motion during healing.
- Patellofemoral – for stabilizing the patella and to relieve anterior knee pain.
- Prophylactic – for prevention of severe knee injuries.
Another variety of a knee brace is a knee sleeve. Knee sleeves are used during exercises such as weight lifting, to prevent friction between the knee bones.
When are Knee Braces recommended?
Various knee braces are recommended in the different conditions:3
|Condition||Type of knee brace|
|Uni-compartmental (medial compartment) osteoarthritis of the knee||Unloader (valgus) knee brace|
|Varus malalignment (malaligned knees, such as bowleg or knock-knees)||Unloader (valgus) knee brace|
|Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) – pain in the front of the knee||Anterior knee pain brace|
|Acute (pre-surgical) management of quadriceps rupture, patellar tendon rupture, medial collateral ligament rupture, patellar fracture, dislocation, and acute traumatic knee injuries||Knee immobilizer|
|Prevention of severe knee injuries during contact sports||Prophylactic knee brace|
|Ligament deficient knee and post-surgical repair||Functional knee brace|
|For post-operative rehabilitation||Rehabilitative knee brace|
How do Knee Braces help?
The efficiency of knee braces in the treatment of knee pain or knee conditions has not been established. Research in this area has mostly provided contradictory results. However, feedback from users has often been positive. People using knee braces reported exhibiting better performance and more confidence during sports.5
A research in 2013 by ROAM (Research into Osteoarthritis in Manchester), showed that in patellofemoral osteoarthritis (which affects the kneecap), a lightweight knee brace with support for patella could improve pain, knee stiffness, muscle strength, and function. Furthermore, patients reported that use of braces made their knees feel more stable, hence they could attempt normal movements.5
When to use a Knee Brace?
Your doctor may recommend you to use a knee brace in conditions, such as:
- MCL tear – an injury to the medial cruciate ligament.
- LCL tear – an injury to the lateral cruciate ligament.
- PCL tear – an injury to the posterior cruciate ligament
- Arthritis – inflammation of the joints causing stiffness.
- Chondromalacia Patella – a condition in which the cartilage on the undersurface of patella softens.
- Patellofemoral dislocations or subluxation – partial or complete dislocation of patella from the patellofemoral groove (its anatomical position).
How to get a Knee Brace?
Knee braces are easily available in pharmacies and medical supply stores. They can also be bought online or directly from a manufacturer. Yet, your doctor’s recommendation about the type and brand of a knee brace best suitable for you is necessary, before purchase.7
How to select a Knee Brace?
Knee braces need be selected based on your knee problem. While selecting a knee brace you must check the following aspects:
Type: Knee braces can be of various types, for instance, stabilizers, hinges, supports, and sleeves. You need to be sure about the type of knee brace recommended for you before purchasing.
Style: Knee braces can be either worn by slipping on or wrapping around one’s knees. These are the two different styles of a knee brace you can choose from.
Size: You can determine the size of a knee brace that fits you based on the sizing chart on the product. In case of a doubt between two sizes, you should choose the larger one.
Certain manufacturers provide knee braces and knee sleeves with additional features like better sweat absorption, anti-allergic, better aesthetics, bi-layered – for retention of body heat, and with uniform compression on the joint.
How to use a Knee Brace?
While putting on a knee brace you will need to be seated on a chair. In case your brace has straps or hinges, you should fasten them carefully before you stand on your feet to check whether you are comfortable while walking.
Initially, your doctor and the manufacturer or retailer can guide you towards the correct way to position and fasten a knee brace. You will be able to wear it without assistance after a few trials.
Wear and tear of a knee brace is common on prolonged use. A worn-out knee brace may not provide the optimum stability or compression, hence it is prudent to replace a knee brace once damaged.
For more information, do get in touch with us through email at [email protected] or message us on WhatsApp at +91-9640378378, or submit your question below.
Have a question?
Leave a Review
How did you find the information presented in this article? Would you like us to add any other information? Help us improve by providing your rating and review comments. Thank you in advance!