Should I Use a Knee Support?
To state the obvious, if there is pain in your knee, there is probably something not right. Knee pain is a very common problem, regardless of how active you are. However, there are many different causes of knee pain, so using a knee support does not work for everyone with knee pain. Knee pain can be caused by patella-maltracking, and that can often be solved by doing a few simple exercises. However knee pain could also be a sign of osteoarthritis or damage to one of the ligaments which may require more intensive treatment or even surgery.
There are two joints in the knee – the patellofemoral and tibio-femoral joints. If that isn’t complicated enough, there are numerous muscles and ligaments as well! Different knee supports have different functions to support different parts of the knee anatomy. For example, some supports have a reinforced section on the inside to support the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), whereas other knee supports prevent anterior-posterior glide to protect the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL). A simple compression bandage can reduce swelling in the knee joint which may have been restricting motion.
There are many additional factors which may affect knee pain, such as: the combination of a soft running surface and good footwear to reduce the impact on the shock-absorbing meniscus cartilage within the knee. Previous knee injuries or weaknesses within the knee may need support. Previous hip and ankle injuries can increase stress on different parts of the knee. Also, the intensity and type of sport or activity can influence the effectiveness of knee supports.
Your footwear for sporting activity may cause your feet to pronate or supinate (turn inwards or outwards at the ankle joint). This can cause more stress on the knee joint as it has to balance out this extra force. Having a knee support with a hole in the front can reduce pressure on the patella (knee cap) whilst supporting the ligaments of the knee. This added protection may reduce your sporting performance if it restricts your knee mobility too much, and could potentially cause more stress elsewhere.
For a knee support to be of use, it has to correct the specific problem that is causing your pain. Without a diagnosis of the knee problem, spending money on a knee support is a bit of a lottery. My opinion is that rather than using a knee support, you should get a diagnosis from a professional to find out what is causing the knee pain, and try to sort that problem first.