It is easy to think that knee and joint problems only affect those who are older. But joints can see damage reasonably early in life for incredibly active kids or those with certain medical conditions. During adolescence, bones are still growing, meaning they lack the resilience to stress we develop into adulthood.
How to Choose the Right Knee Brace for Your Child
Knowing when to have your child’s knee braced is essential, as is knowing what type of bracing is appropriate. If you think your child may need an orthotic brace, you should consult with their doctor. As we will discuss below, there are many types of braces, and only a medical professional can help diagnose which type will help keep your child pain-free and moving.
Types of Common Knee Braces and When to Use Them
Knee braces, like other joint bracing techniques, can be utilized as a pain relief measure or to help protect and treat an existing injury from damage. They help stabilize the joint and reduce pain. But a knee brace should not significantly impede the natural range of motion, or else you risk more damage or weakening of the knee.
1. Basic Knee Sleeves
The simplest style of braces you will find are knee sleeves. Generally manufactured of neoprene, they are a tight-fitting material sleeve that slides over the knee.
Sleeves work mainly from compression and can help reduce pain and swelling from several types of knee injuries. However, they cannot provide protection or increased stability against further damage.
Knee sleeves are an excellent way to help minimize symptoms of knee-related sports injuries after activities. Keeping swelling and pain down helps prevent internal joint pressure from causing more significant damage before a doctor can address the injury.
2. Knee Pads
A step up from the sleeve is the knee pad. Constructed in a very similar manner to sleeves, these brace types also incorporate rigid shells with internal padding across the front and partially around the sides of the knee.
They’ll provide some of the same compression benefits as sleeves. While knee pads still won’t provide structural support, the addition of padding can help prevent injury caused by direct blows.
Opting for knee pads in high contact activities where your child might hit the ground often, like volleyball or skateboarding, can help keep the joint protected.
3. Patellar Tracking Orthosis
This type of brace is designed to help with a particular type of knee condition called patellofemoral tracking syndrome. Simply put, the patella, your kneecap, should move in line with your knee, but if subjected to repeated strain or a strong impact, it may get knocked out of line and track out of the knee when you flex.
Symptoms of patellofemoral tracking disorders manifest in children who participate in sports with lots of running and jumping like basketball or track. Pain tends to occur most behind the kneecaps. A patellar tracking orthosis works by limiting the movement of the patella.
4. Patellar Strap
Worn on the upper shin just below the knee, patellar straps are the smallest of the knee braces. They apply pressure to the tendon along the front of the knee and can help remove stress during activities. These bands won’t provide any support, but they are effective at relieving pain from patellar tendonitis or Osgood-Schlatter disease.
5. Hinged Knee Braces
Hinged braces come in a variety of types and configurations. They are the most involved and, therefore, the most supportive you can wear. Hinged braces feature two bars that run along the sides of the knee, providing additional support to the ligaments there. Athletes benefit from increased stability and a reduction of injury risk in a high-impact sport like football.
They aren't just for sports either. The increased stability provided makes them a common device to wear both while awaiting operative care and after knee surgeries. Hinged knee braces tend to be the most adjustable, so they can be altered to allow different ranges of motion and accommodate swelling.
Seek Medical Expertise!
Most knee braces look similar, but they all serve very specific functions. While you won’t need a prescription to pick up most types, you should always discuss knee or joint problems with your child's doctor, athletic trainer, or an orthopedic specialist.
Even if you lessen the symptoms, you may still be allowing more severe damage to continue. Braces are meant to help as part of a more comprehensive treatment.
Determining the Need for Bracing
Kids can sometimes have a dogged determination to keep moving. That determination can sometimes make it difficult to suss out something is wrong. Pay attention to how your child behaves when engaging in play or sport, and listen if they mention any pain or uncomfortable sensations.
Here are a few things to look out for that might indicate a knee injury:
- Limited motion of the knee joint.
- Pain anywhere along the front, back, or sides of the knee.
- A bump or knot has formed around the knee.
- Swelling or bruising.
- A feeling of knee weakness or locking up.
- Popping noises when the knee bends.
- The kneecap (patella) is sliding out of place.
If you notice any of these, implement some initial home treatment as you schedule them to see the doctor. The best thing you can do is have them rest, ice the knee, provide compression (knee sleeves are excellent for this), and elevate the knee.
Pediatric Bracing Experts in Western North Carolina
If you have noticed any signs of a knee or other joint injury, let the experts at the Orthopedic Appliance Company help. Since the 1960s, we have offered our patients the highest quality bracing services throughout western North Carolina and beyond. Our facility and practitioners have met the rigorous standards and are certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics.
We have three convenient locations in Asheville, Fletcher, and Hickory, with more to come. Check to see which is closest, or send us a message with your concerns and location, and we will get you to the right place.