Knee OA bracing improves joint function and activity level

Rotation may be key to pain relief.

Research from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City confirms that the kinetic effects of osteoarthritis knee bracing are in fact related to bracing’s effects on knee pain—but not in the way investigators had expected.

best-view-everBy Jordana Bieze Foster, Lower Extremity Review May 2011

In a study presented in April at the annual meeting of the Gait & Clinical Movement Analysis Society, HSS researchers found that knee pain during stair negotiation after one year of brace wear was correlated with peak external rotation moment. Surprisingly, however, they found no correlation between pain and peak knee adduction moment at any time point.

Multiple previous studies have demonstrated significant decreases in knee OA pain associated with long term brace use. Other studies have documented that brace wear significantly decreases knee adduction moment, which is an indicator of joint loading and knee OA pain. But the extent to which the mechanical effects of bracing contribute to improvements in pain and function has been the subject of debate.

The HSS researchers analyzed seven patients with moderately severe unilateral medial knee OA who wore a custom valgus brace for one year. Subjects underwent kinematic and kinetic gait analysis, radiographic testing, and assessment of pain and function at baseline and after one year of brace wear.

Pain during slow walking and during stair ascent and descent, as measured using a visual analog scale, was significantly lower at the one-year time point than at baseline. Significant improvement was also seen for the pain and overall quality of life components of the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score. Walking speed and stride length significantly increased.

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