Bracing may provide relief from knee pain due to arthritis

Dr. Asim Ashique

Knee pain can be a devastating problem for people affected by arthritis. Although many types of arthritis can affect the knee joint, osteoarthritis is the most common. It occurs when the cartilage covering the joint surfaces inside the knee breaks down, exposing and irritating the underlying bone.

Where there has been trauma to the joint, the process may be accelerated and degenerative changes inside the knee can happen earlier. Knee arthritis can occur at any age but mostly affects people over age 40.

Symptoms of knee arthritis can vary depending upon the severity and exact location of the degeneration. Common symptoms include pain, swelling (due to bone spurs), stiffness and grinding or popping sounds. Buckling or locking can also occur over time due to weakening of the muscles around the joint.

If you or someone you know suffers from knee arthritis, you know the symptoms can be troublesome. The discomfort can disturb one’s daily activities and quality of life. Sleep, work, exercise and other routine activities all suffer as a result. It is a big problem.

Studies show that 13 per cent of elderly women and 10 per cent of elderly men have knee pain due to arthritis. One quarter of these people are severely disabled because of it.

Treatment options for this condition are limited. Less than 15 per cent of people have a severe enough condition to be considered candidates for knee replacement surgery. Since many knee replacements need to be redone in 15 to 20 years, most surgeons are reluctant to operate until things become unbearable. What about the other 85 per cent of people who are suffering? Waiting things out is a painful process. Pain medications may provide limited relief but can be hard on the liver and kidneys. For many decades, people have been searching for a better way to deal with knee arthritis.

Fortunately, there is good some news. Recent advances in technology provide hope!

Orthopedic bracing has been used for many years to treat a variety of soft tissue injuries and the associated physical pain. We’ve all known someone who has worn an ankle or elbow support brace to help deal with a problem. Many of us have seen professional athletes wearing these on their knees to treat or even prevent an injury, but until recently bracing wasn’t used to treat knee arthritis. Then came the highly anticipated “knee unloader” brace.

The knee unloader brace is a compact, comfortable, yet firm support that is engineered to decompress (unload) the knee joint. When a person wears the brace, there is less pressure (load) on the joint surfaces. This results in reduced pain, increased mobility and improved function. More and more people are finding much-needed relief with this type of brace.

The knee unloader brace is covered through Manitoba Health but requires a prescription from a medical doctor indicating that the patient is suffering from knee arthritis and that the brace is necessary for activities of daily living.

The key to a successful outcome lies in being properly fitted by a professional. By visiting a qualified fitter, you will be equipped with a brace that is the correct size, weight and fit for your needs.

The knee unloader brace can be found at Liberty Athletic & Medical Supplies (264 Tache Ave., 204-272-9640) or other select providers.

Dr. Asim Ashique, a chiropractic orthopedic specialist, has practiced in Winnipeg for 18 years. He provides chiropractic care to many of Winnipeg’s top athletes and performers, including members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Winnipeg Goldeyes, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

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