Research from Canadian investigators suggests brace wear may positively affect activity level without decreasing muscle strength in patients with medial compartment knee osteoarthritis (OA).
Investigators from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia followed 24 patients (four women) who wore a valgus unloader brace as needed, testing knee extensor, flexor, and plantar flexor strength and pain and function.
At six-month follow up they found positive relationships between brace wear usage (dose) and percent change in step count and hamstring strength. Hamstring strength improved significantly from baseline. The results were published this month in Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
The finding of no negative effects on muscle strength is consistent with an earlier study on patellofemoral OA bracing, in which 12 weeks of brace wear was associated with an increase in quadriceps maximum voluntary contraction (see “Bracing does not weaken quadriceps in patellofemoral OA”).
- Hurley ST, Hatfield Murdock GL, Stanish WD, Hubley-Kozey CL. Is there a dose response for valgus unloader brace usage on knee pain, function, and muscle strength? Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2012;93(3):496-502.
- Callaghan MJ, Parkes M, Forsythe LM, et al. The effect of knee braces on quadriceps strength and inhibition in subjects with patellofemoral osteoarthritis (PFOA). Presented at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis, San Diego, CA, September 2011.