Do knee guards really help?

PHOTO: Do knee guards really help?

If you already have an existing injury such as a torn ligament, wearing a brace does provide some stability, but they do not work for all patients.

Does wearing knee braces/kneeguards actually help to prevent knee injuries? I have "creaky" knees after many years of running and my knees tend to hurt especially when I am running upslope or up the stairs.

Personally I find that wearing the braces/kneeguards does not alleviate the situation. Is it because such aids don't work, or is it because the extent of wear and tear on my knee joints is beyond their help?

This really depends on the type of injuries you have and the type of braces you are using. Braces or guards are either used as a form of treatment or as a post-operation supplement.

Braces provide either 1) compression, 2) stability or 3) offloading of certain areas of the joint. If you already have an existing injury such as a torn ligament (eg. anterior cruciate ligament - ACL), wearing a brace does provide some stability needed for pivoting activities and can thus help prevent further injuries to the joint.

In patients with osteoarthritis, some braces claim to be able to offload the injured area and provide pain relief. In my experience, these braces are very expensive, uncomfortable and almost always have problems with patient compliance.

A knee guard provides compression and does not provide any additional stability. It can provide mild pain relief in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, especially on climbing stairs. However, knee guards do not really prevent injuries in contact sports and do not work well in patients with advance arthritis of the knee.

Braces and guards do help in milder cases of wear and tear. However, when the wear and tear becomes severe, then it is known as osteoarthritis. In such cases, these aids do not work very well.

Q&A answered by Dr Kevin Lee, medical director of the Centre for Joint & Cartilage Surgery, a subsidiary of the Singapore Medical Group Limited. Dr Lee was awarded both the Singapore Orthopaedic Association Young Investigator Award and N Balachandran Award in 2005 and is the Principal Investigator for several active grants involving cartilage repair, stem cells, biomaterials and joint replacements.