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OA Bracing Education

Bracing as a Treatment Approach

Many orthopedists specialize in specific treatment protocols, and, as a result, may not be fully versed in the full armamentarium of treatments available for knee OA—or fully comfortable recommending those outside their areas of specific expertise or focus.

Dr. Neil Roth, an orthopedic surgeon and knee OA specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, advises new patients with knee OA to specifically ask their doctors to provide them with information about the full range of treatments including conservative care options.

In fact, Dr. Roth is a strong advocate of examining conservative care options, rather than more invasive means, as a first step for those individuals who aren’t good candidates for surgery or who have mild or moderate knee OA.

One treatment that he is well versed in is bracing. There are many benefits associated with the use of advanced, specialized knee braces:

  • Advanced braces that are prescribed and fitted by surgeons can be very effective at reducing pain in many patients. They work by offloading stress on the joint.
  • They are non-invasive and non-narcotic.
  • They can help you maintain your everyday activities.
  • They can be used in conjunction with other treatment options to help effectively manage OA symptoms, increase the stability of the knee(s) and reduce pain and swelling.
  • They can be more cost effective and safer than other treatments such as medications or more invasive surgeries that carry additional risks.
  • They can help further deterioration of the joint by easing the pressure on the affected compartment.

According to Dr. Roth, some patients are hesitant to consider knee braces because of fears that they will be bulky, heavy and uncomfortable. But the most advanced new technologies on the market are light, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing and many of them can be adjusted to fit the unique conditions of specific patients.

Dr. Roth encourages patients to talk to their orthopedists about bracing as a treatment option. There are many different technologies available, so patients should be sure to consider the weight, profile, effectiveness and comfort of the brace when choosing. Patients should always work with their doctor to identify the best brace for their needs. Please see below for some questions new knee OA patients should pose to their doctors.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

According to Dr. Roth and Dr. Joseph Hellmann, Orthopaedic Knee and Shoulder Surgeon with OMNI Orthopaedics of Canton, OH, you should ask the following questions when speaking with your doctor about your knee OA.

  1. Where is my knee OA in the disease process?
  2. What are all the treatment options available to me? Your doctor should mention all of the following options:
    • Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
    • Prescription anti-inflammatory medications
    • Topical anti-inflammatory gels such as diclofenac sodium.
    • Pain relieving mentholated crèmes
    • Alternative options such as glucosamine chondroitin and hyaluronic acid
    • Knee bracing
    • Physical therapy
    • Applying heat and cold to the joint
    • Cortisone and viscosupplementation injections
    • Lidoderm patches
    • Arthroscopy
    • Reconstructive procedures (meniscal transplant, cartilage restoration, osteotomies)
    • Partial knee replacements (unicompartmental knee replacements or arthroscopic assisted metal/plastic resurfacings)
    • Total knee replacements
  3. Are there any of these options that you do or don’t recommend based on your experience?
  4. Of those that you don’t recommend, what are the reasons?
  5. What treatment options are most appropriate for my current disease state?
  6. What kind of results should I expect from these treatment options?
  7. Are there any new treatment options I should know about?
  8. Are there things I can do to slow the progression of my arthritis?
  9. What's the best thing to do during a flare up?
  10. What lifestyle changes should I make?
  11. Should I change my diet to help inflammation?
  12. Should I alter my routine at all during changing weather?
  13. What stretches do you recommend?
  14. What exercises do you think I am ready for?
  15. How often should I be exercising?
  16. Are there any specialists I can see to help my treatment?
  17. Are there any arthritis-specific support groups you recommend?
  18. What should I consider before I choose to have a total knee replacement?

Questions Your Doctor Should be Asking You

  1. On a scale of 1-10 can you describe your pain?
  2. Where is your pain and how is it affecting your mobility?
  3. What are you currently doing to manage your knee OA?
  4. Do you have any allergies?
  5. What is your daily activity level like?
  6. What is your exercise regimen?
  7. What are your recreational and work related activity goals?
  8. What treatment have you tried and what has worked or not worked for you in the past?
  9. Have you tried knee braces before? If so, what has your experience been? If not, what are your reservations?
  10. Are there certain times of the day or times of the year that your knee OA is especially bothersome?
  11. Do you have other conditions I should be aware of?

Dr. Hellmann says that management of knee OA is a decision making process analogous to retirement planning where your doctor should ask questions of your specific situation, identify your recreational and/or work goals, then use the OA treatment options listed to construct the optimal treatment plan to suite your needs throughout the course of your disease.

Where can I find a doctor?

This tool can help you find a knee OA specialist near you.

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