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Knee Braces Ease Osteoarthritis Pain

Researchers Say OA Patients Report Relief From Pain and Stiffness After Wearing Knee Brace

Benefits of a Brace continued...

But so far, so good. "The less knee misalignment the patient had, the less disability they experienced, and they saw an improvement in pain, stiffness, and function," said study researcher J. Richard Steadman, MD, founder of the Steadman Phillipon Research Institute in Vail, Colo., at the media briefing.

Not everyone with knee OA is a candidate for bracing, he says. Braces may not fit individuals who weigh too much or too little.

"Knee bracing is one of a number of things you can do for knee OA, including weight loss and strengthening of the muscle in the thigh," he says. "It's a noninvasive way to enhance performance in conjunction with a program to make your lifestyle better," he says. "A brace can add some level of increased activity and stability, but all other things are just as important."

Margot Putukian, MD, the director of athletic medicine and head team physician at Princeton University, agrees. "Exercise, physical therapy, weight loss, and disease education are the most important things we can do for our patients," she says. For every 1-pound loss, there is a 4-pound decrease in knee load, she says.

"There is an issue with putting a brace on because people think that that means 'I am old,'" Putukian says. "It's a barrier."

Robert A Stanton, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in Fairfield, Conn., tries to break down this barrier by telling his patients that it is basically the same brace he uses for National Football League players who hurt their knee ligaments. "This is not an old-age thing," he says. "You just can't say 'here is a brace,' you have to explain it to them." Stanton usually recommends a 30-day-trial.

"We can stop this disease with medication, injections, weight loss, physical activity, and bracing," he says. Injections of corticosteroids are another way to reduce inflammation and pain in knees with OA.

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