Study data published in Arthritis Care Research support the efficacy of a soft knee brace in minimizing dynamic knee instability in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Researchers assessed improvements in proprioception and pain after the use of a soft knee brace in patients with knee OA and self-reported knee instability (n=44; 65.9% women). Patients were assessed for activity limitations using the 10-m walk test and the Get Up and Go test; knee joint proprioception was measured using an active joint position sense test. Pain levels were captured after perturbed and level walking on a treadmill, using the Numeric Rating Scale. A handheld pressure algometer was used to identify pressure pain threshold. Dynamic knee instability was evaluated with the Perturbation Response, a measure of deviation in mean knee varus-valgus angle after controlled mechanical perturbation compared with level walking.

Patients had a mean age of 65.7±9.3 years and a mean BMI of 29.8±5.5 kg/m2. The effect of a soft knee brace on activity limitations was mediated by decrease in pain and decrease in dynamic knee instability (P <.05) after brace use. Specifically, decrease in pain and in dynamic knee instability accounted for 43% and 13%, respectively, of the overall reduction in time to complete the 10-m walk test. Reduction of pain and decline in knee instability also mediated the effect of wearing a brace on time to complete the Get Up and Go test. However, changes in proprioception and pressure pain threshold levels were not mediating factors for either activity limitation test.

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These results highlight the pathway through which wearing a soft knee brace may affect activity limitations in individuals with knee OA. The effect of a knee brace on pain levels and dynamic knee instability were of particular salience in determining activity limitations. These findings may be useful for clinicians in assessing the potential efficacy of a knee brace for patients.

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Cudejko T, van der Esch M, van den Noort JC, et al. Decreased pain and improved dynamic knee instability mediate the beneficial effect of wearing a soft knee brace on activity limitations in persons with knee osteoarthritis [published online August 12, 2018]. Arthritis Care Res. doi: 10.1002/acr.23722