Do you wear a custom knee brace to combat knee instability?
Updated Jan 4th, 2020
Custom Knee Braces and Rehab are the Best non-Surgical Options to Fight Knee Instability
I also wear a custom, rigid, hinged knee brace due to an ACL injury resulting in severe stability problems in my left knee. I have experienced a few chronic issues with these braces over the years, which I will get to these issues shortly, but all-in-all, customized knee braces are a true lifesaver for those wanting to maintain an active lifestyle while dealing with knee advanced problems.
When knee ligaments are damaged the result can be severe knee instability and pain, not to mention all the other impacts it can have on one’s normal daily routine and lifestyle. And the best, non-surgical option to combat knee instability is to get fitted and wear a custom knee brace. Most custom braces are rigid and have one or two hinges. Sometimes, the orthopedic tech fitting you for your brace will make a cast knee and leg and use the mold to have the custom-fitted knee brace made. Or they may simply take detailed measurements of the joint and leg for reference for the custom knee brace manufacturer.
Knee Injuries are a Pain in the Leg Joint
I’ve been wearing a custom knee brace since 1 was 15 years old to combat severe knee instability. The source of my knee troubles stemmed from an injury during a high school basketball game. I was taking the last step for a layup when my left foot planted in some water that had been spilled on the court. My knee bent left and there was a loud but muffled popping sound. The pain was fairly intense and the swelling was immediate. By the time the game had ended and we drove back to our town, which was about an hour away, my knee seemed to be the size of my head and I could barely bend it due to the swelling.
I suffered a complete tear of my left ACL during that basketball game. The anterior cruciate ligament is a commonly injured knee ligament in sports that involve jumping, planting & twisting, and changing direction. The ACL connects the thighbone to the shinbone and plays an integral part in knee stabilization. It was a devastating blow for a young person whose life revolved around sports.
Blow Outs & Reconstructive Knee Operations
My bones were still growing so the orthopedic doctor suggested that I wait to have surgery, which I did. Unfortunately, during that time I was overly active and would continuously “blow out” my knee during volleyball and hockey games and while snowboarding. During this waiting period, I ripped up a good amount of additional meniscus and cartilage which was removed during my first ACL reconstruction the following year at 16 years of age. They used patellar ligament for this reconstruction but within 6 months I knew it hadn’t held as the knee was continuing to blow out at all too frequent intervals. In hindsight, I could have taken it a lot easier and probably held off even longer to have the ACL reconstruction but teenagers are full energy, stubborn, and “invisible” but as my mother would say, “hindsight is 20/20”.
I tried not to let my injury slow me down but over the course of the next twenty-plus years, I had a number of knee operations including a few arthroscopic surgeries to remove more damaged meniscus and cartilage, as well as 2 more unsuccessful ACL reconstructions using tendon hamstring tendon from my left leg and then right leg. And most recently my surgeon performed an opening wedge high tibial osteotomy, where my tibia plateau was cut in half and a wedge-shaped disc from my pelvic bone was inserted into the tibia plateau to realign the knee and allow me to carry more weight on the healthiest part of my knee.
Custom Fitted Knee Braces Help to Maintain an Active Lifestyle
Throughout the course of all these knee surgeries, l have been able to maintain an active lifestyle largely thanks to custom knee braces. My first 3 rigid, hinged knee braces were made in Richmond B.C. by Generation II Inc. (now Ossur). These braces were the Generation II Extreme Custom ACL knee braces which featured a single hinge on the outside out the knee and nice secure fit. The next type of brace I tired was an Ossur Cti Custom ACL brace which has a double hinge design. But unfortunately, I couldn’t use my Cti brace for very long as I had my high-tibial osteotomy surgery done shortly after having it made and the surgery changed the angle of my knee leg enough that the custom brace no longer had a custom fit and could no longer be used. I now find myself sporting a DonJoy Defiance III custom ACL knee brace which is a great choice for anyone with severe knee instability. It also has a double hinge design and fits like a glove. I am in the market for a new brace again next year and will most likely go with another Donjoy Defiance knee brace.
There is a number a great custom knee brace manufacturers including DonJoy Global, Breg Inc. and Ossur. A good starting point is to talk to a local orthotics shop and they can help show you the different models and point you in the right direction.
Knee Brace Migration & Skin Trauma
The number one job of these fancy, carbon fiver, hinged accessories is to combat severe knee instability and if fitted and made correctly, they do their job very well. That being said, they can be bulky, clumsy, restricting, and can take a while to get used to wearing. But the two biggest problems that I have experienced with all the different custom knee braces that I've used over the years are 1) the migration or slipping of the knee brace down the leg during activity or when worn over longer periods of time and 2) skin trauma caused by the pinching and rubbing from the knee brace straps.
These chronic problems are two of the driving forces behind the creation of Bracelayer Apparel Ltd. We wanted to create a functional compression pant that could be worn on its own to provide levels of knee support not found in traditional compression garments but could also be worn under custom knee braces to stop them from sliding down the leg and to give some protection for knee brace strap irritation and trauma, while also giving some protection to the other leg/knee.
Bracelayer Compression Gear is the Bees Knees
Bracelayer Knee Compression Pants help solve both these issues by incorporating a thin layer of perforated neoprene around the knee, along with the IT bands and around the lower lumbar area.
This layer of perforated neoprene is thin enough so it can fit comfortably under custom knee braces but is also strong enough to provide relief from straps pinching and digging into the athlete's skin. It also provides grip, even while sweating and prolonged periods of sport, to keep the knee brace firmly in the place where it is designed to be.
And the best part about wearing our Bracelayer Knee Sleeve Compression Pants under your custom knee brace is that you are giving your other knee a layer of support, stability, and protection that it deserves.