October 2011

Bracing does not weaken quadriceps in patients with patellofemoral OA

In the moment: Knee OA

Practitioner concerns that knee bracing leads to muscle atrophy in patients with patellofemoral osteoarthritis (OA) appear to be unfounded, and the opposite may be true, according to research from the University of Manchester in the U.K.

In 59 individuals with symptomatic patellofemoral OA, investigators found that 12 weeks of brace wear was associated with a 4.6-Nm median increase in quadriceps maximum voluntary contraction. Although the change was not statistically significant, it does suggest that patients were not getting weaker with brace use, said Michael Callaghan, PhD, a clinical specialist and research associate in the Centre for Rehabilitation Science at the university, who presented the findings in September at the OARSI congress.

A sign that quadriceps function actually improved over the 12-week period was that arthrogenous muscle inhibition did change significantly, with a median decrease of nearly 11%.

“We don’t think it’s necessarily anything biomechanically brilliant that the brace is doing. It’s more that all of the patients consistently say they feel more confident. That confidence we feel is making them more active,” Callaghan said.

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