Running injuries are a common problem for people who jog regularly. The most typical of those are knee injuries and pain, which are experienced not only by people with a trauma, but also by healthy runners. Maintaining a healthy weight, warming up before training, avoiding running on concrete and buying a comfortable and quality pair of running shoes, are among the ways to prevent injuries. Using knee supports is not only of additional help but it is also one of the best ways to relieve general or specific pain in the knee and prevent further complications after an injury.
What you should never forget however is that it is essential to listen to what your body is telling you and not overestimate your capacity. Our advice is not to buy knee supports without consulting a specialist in advance and to seek professional advice as soon as you feel any type of pain because there is a chance that you might be doing something wrong.
It is always best to try to avoid a trauma, rather than treat it after it has occurred. Fortunately, using knee supports such as sleeves, braces and straps, helps in both cases. There are many different types of knee support which are used not only as a precaution, but for treatment of ongoing knee conditions. Using knee support is among the things you can do to prevent the so-called runner’s knee, which is one of the most typical ailments not only among runners, as the name suggests, but in general among people who do activities that require a lot of knee bending (for example jumping and biking). It is a tricky condition as it is sometimes overlooked due to its nature –the pain is mild at first and felt only when the person is running, but it gradually becomes worse and worse and even gets to the point where it is felt during rest. At all events, choosing the right knee support for your condition could be somewhat difficult but it is vital for your joint health and you should consider purchasing it if you wish to provide your knees with the care they deserve and not give up on your active lifestyle.
Knee support types
There are many different ways to classify knee supports. These classifications aid the interested by showing them a range of possibilities for their particular condition. Self-help sites offer a wide variety of supports which come in different prices and styles.
One of the ways to differentiate between knee supports is by grouping them as regards the level of support they offer to the knee, or in other words the level of knee support a particular person is looking for. Here we find low, medium, high and ultimate level knee supports, as well as basic, advanced and elite level ones. As implied by their name, low level knee supports provide less fix to the knee than medium, high and ultimate level ones. The same could be said for basic level sleeves, compared to advanced and elite level braces. Typically, low and basic level knee supports have no metal or plastic parts, are simple to use and are usually cheaper than higher level ones.
They are perfect for people, who experience a mild knee pain, not necessarily due to an injury, but are not suitable for moderate to severe pain in the knee and harsher injuries. Low level/basic sleeves are elastic and comfortable and provide compression to the knee which is essential for a fast and easy recovery. Some people who buy these do so in order to prevent an injury from occurring, rather than treat it after it has occurred. Next we should say a few words about medium and advanced knee supports. These provide for a better knee fix than low level/basic ones and are used for treating more serious pain and are recommended after experiencing worse injuries. These typically have adjustable straps for bigger comfort and better protection and compression, and are perfect for instable knees and conditions such as arthritis. High and ultimate level knee supports, as well as elite level ones, are the most advanced knee supports of all mentioned and provide the most fix to the knee. Of course, they are also the most expensive, as they incorporate different materials and parts to ensure maximum support and protection. These are perfect to use after knee operations and for more demanding activities such as skiing.
Knee sleeves or braces
The terms sleeves and braces are not usually used interchangeably. The difference between sleeves and braces is said to be that sleeves, even though providing some sort of support, are designed to protect from future injury, whether braces are used to protect a previous trauma from worsening. That is why sleeves are typically elastic, whether braces are more solid. You can see many people at the gym wearing sleeves, as the result of using them is less pain and swelling during and after training. At any rate, it is essential to consult an orthopedic surgeon before doing anything on your own, as you may make your condition worse or hurt yourself, while in fact trying to protect yourself from harm. Knee sleeves are usually placed into three categories: open – that have a hole at the front; closed – a complete sleeve; and inbuilt – which have some side stabilizers. Knee braces can be classified as prophylactic (protective or preventive); functional; and postoperative.
Knee support styles
Knee supports can also be classified as regards their style. There are a wide variety of types here. For example, we can differentiate between pull up sleeves, wrap arounds (Velcro knee supports), hinged braces, knee straps, magnetic and neoprene braces. We already said a few words about the sleeves. Velcro supports, as can be implied from their name, have Velcro straps for fastening, so they are easily adjustable in order to respond to different sizes of swelling. These also provide for more or less protection to the knee, but tend to give more stability than pull up sleeves. Hinged knee braces are used when sleeves and Velcro supports are not suitable for the knee and it needs more support and protection, as they have hinges to prevent hyperextending of the knee. Magnetic knee braces have magnets around the knee cap which are believed to increase blood flow and thus decrease stiffness, swelling and pain. Neoprene braces are said to be one of the most searched-for braces on the market. Their one big advantage over other types of knee braces is that they incorporate the material neoprene which is a material made from synthetic rubber. It preserves body heat and thus promotes healing. Last, but not least, we should mention knee straps. They are a type of bracing device which is less bulky than typical braces. Knee straps are used to treat the so-called patella-femoral pain syndrome, which occurs when the underside surface of the patella (knee cap) constantly makes contact with the femur (thigh bone). This pain syndrome is more common among runners and basketball players, as it is “unlocked” when doing repetitive activities (and running is one of the most repetitive ones), but it is also important to note that it may even occur when sitting for too long. Knee straps can be either infra-patellar (below the patella) or supra-patellar (above the patella). Whether or not you choose to use one, you should first treat the ongoing pain, and not just mask it.
Your knees are vulnerable to injuries, which is especially true if you have been an active person for many years. There are only a few sports where using your legs is not required. Running is one of the sports where having strong joints is particularly essential. Sadly, sometimes even all precautions taken are not enough, and an injury occurs or the pain continues. Nevertheless, using the right kind of knee support is of serious importance and can have a great impact on your joint health.