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Arthritis "Unloader" Knee Braces – Single Hinge Vs Double Hinged
According to USA Today, the number of knee replacement surgeries has grown significantly over the past 20 years, costing our government over $5 billion. This amount will continue to grow as the baby boom generation continues to age. New technologies are being used to reduce the need for knee replacements.
Stem cell treatments, partial knee replacement, arthrosurfacing and HemiCap implants are just some of the new treatments being used as an alternative to the joint-destructive procedure known as the total knee.
Another existing conservative treatment is the use of arthritis or “unloader” knee support. These rigid framed braces have been in use for over a decade and are designed to reduce “bone on bone” contact between the femur and tibia. These arthritis braces are limited as they can only be used uni-compartmentally. If both compartments of the knee (medial and lateral) show severe arthritis with a lack of cartilage and synovial fluid, the relief type of braces are not effective. In the case of patients with either medial or lateral unicompartmental osteoarthritis, these types of knee braces can have a significant impact on a patient’s activity by reducing the pain and swelling associated with knee arthritis and extending the life expectancy of the knee until such time as these new technologies can is used.
Most relief knee braces work in two ways, utilizing the same principle effect of relieving stress in one of the two compartments of the knee joint. When the medial or inner space of the knee is affected, a varus deformity or bowing of the knee joint can be seen on X-ray and if severe can be seen clinically when a patient is standing.
Likewise, with the lateral or outer space affected, a valgus deformity or knock knee develops. Some braces, like the Breg Fusion and X2K OA knee braces, work by pressing directly on the knee joint in an attempt to correct the varus or valgus deformity and “straighten the knee”. This has the effect of reducing the pressure in the affected compartment of the knee and redistributing the weight to the hoop and the other compartment.
Bracers such as the DonJoy Nano or OA Adjuster work by bending the thigh and leg into a more straight position rather than exerting direct pressure on the knee joint. This type of knee support for relief works well with patients with severe arthritis and palpable pain and pressure in the knee joint. In severe arthritis with patients suffering from severe pain, the results can be quite immediate.
Over the last several years, single-hinged arthritis braces have come on the market with the advantages of being lighter and more comfortable to wear.
So how does a doctor or patient choose between a single-hinged arthritis splint or the double-hinged? And how do you choose between direct knee correction or thigh/leg correction?
The choice really depends on the patient and certain factors that would eliminate some of the choices you have. Typically, younger individuals benefit from double-hinged braces as they provide additional knee stability to protect the meniscus, collateral ligaments, and ACL/PCL.
Active athletes and individuals participating in higher impact and contact sports have additional benefits when using a double-hinged brace. Older people or those with more sedentary lifestyles may benefit better from single-hinged braces due to the added comfort and fit of these devices.
Patients with significant knee swelling, or knees that do not conform to standard standard measurements, may benefit from single-hinged braces, again to provide a better fit and less restriction of knee swelling. Newer models are designed for women who address a wider pelvis and increased Q angle.
When choosing a knee brace, it is always best to consult with your attending physician, therapist or healthcare professional. They will be able to determine which relief knee brace is best for your situation based on clinical and radiological findings.
Going online and buying an arthritis knee brace without knowledge of your condition can make your situation much worse and more and more painful. It is always recommended that if you go online to buy an arthritis knee brace that you choose a company that has experience with these types of medical products and can help guide you and your doctor in the right direction.
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