A torn knee meniscus is unfortunately a relatively common injury among athletes in sports that require sharp changes in running direction or speed, e.g. football or soccer. It also has a relatively high prevalence among athletes who jump frequently and risk landing awkwardly and off balance such as basketball or volleyball players. When this type of injury occurs, the athlete will usually need a knee brace to help him or her recover as quickly and completely as possible. In this post, we provide tips for choosing the best knee brace for meniscus tear injuries, whether you are looking to treat a traumatic meniscus tear, to return to normal activity or to treat a tear caused by osteoarthritis.
In certain situations, the choice of best knee brace for a meniscus tear can depend on the stage of recovery from the injury as well as whether it is a long term result of knee osteoarthritis. We will also include suggestions for choosing a knee brace under these circumstances.
Causes & Epidemiology
The knee joint has two C shaped pieces of cartilage situated between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia). These pieces of cartilage are known as menisci and they function as cushions or shock absorbers between those 2 bones. Please see the diagram on the left for an illustration of the location of the medial and lateral menisci.They also prevent direct contact between them. In certain situations, the knee can receive a blow that results in tearing or rupturing of either or both menisci. The symptoms of this injury usually include pain and swelling of the joint as well as knee instability. In addition, you may experience difficulty fully straightening the injured knee – it may feel as though it “locks” at a specific angle. You can view the various types of meniscus tear injuries in the diagram on the right.
Best Knee Brace For A Traumatic Meniscus Tear Injury
In possibly the majority of cases, the meniscus tear is a traumatic injury that results from a sudden blow to the knee or twisting of the joint. Many of these cases are accompanied by a torn ACL injury. The best knee brace for treating this type of meniscus tear injury will usually be a hinged knee brace. It will provide the knee with the maximum lateral support possible to help heal both the meniscus tear and the accompanying ACL damage. Generally, you will want to opt for a knee brace with the most rigid hinge possible, such as the BioSkin Gladiator or McDavid Bio-Logix Knee Brace.
The Gladiator knee brace has a further advantage in that its hinges offer an adjustable range of motion. As you enter the rehabilitative stage, you can gradually increase the range of motion of your knee until it eventually gets back to normality. This will reduce the risk of re-injuring your knee due to making too many strenuous demands of it too soon. If you are looking for another example of a brace with a rigid hinge and adjustable range of motion, you can also consider the Mueller Pro Level Hinged Knee Brace.
Returning To Normal Activity
Once you have started to return to your normal level of activity you can consider switching from a rigid hinged knee brace to a knee sleeve. Choose one made from neoprene, as this material will offer the maximum therapeutic warmth to help hold down the risk of re-injury. Although a knee sleeve will not offer the lateral knee support that you would get from a hinged brace, it will provide both warmth and compression. These 2 elements will reduce the risk of re-injuring your knee as you return to your normal level of activity. As an example of a good choice of neoprene based knee sleeve, we can suggest the LP Standard Knee Support with Closed Patella.
Meniscus Tears Due To Knee Osteoarthritis
In some cases (possibly a minority) your meniscus injury may be a long term result of untreated knee osteoarthritis. If this is the case, your choice of the best knee brace for treatment of your meniscus tear should be based on which brace can best treat the underlying knee arthritis.
For treatment of knee osteoarthritis, you will need a knee brace that shifts the point of contact between the thigh and shin bone. The idea will be to move this point of contact to an area with healthier cartilage between the bones, reducing arthritic pain as a result. To achieve this, an unloader knee brace such as the BioSkin OA Spiral (see right) will probably be your best choice.
One difference to note is that, unlike the use of a hinged knee brace for a traumatic meniscus tear injury, you will likely be best off wearing an unloader knee brace permanently. An unloader knee brace will not heal your knee osteoarthritis but will instead slow its rate of progression and reduce your pain. If you discontinue use of the unloader brace at any time, the point of contact between thigh and shin bone will return to the original area and the ongoing damage to the menisci will resume.
Best Knee Brace For Meniscus Tear – Conclusion
In this post, we have examined the question of the best knee brace to use for various types of meniscus tear injuries. You may also find it helpful to employ other types of treatment for your meniscus tear injury. For advice on these additional treatments, we suggest consulting a healthcare professional.