The knee is our body’s most complex joint. For our entire life, it is subjected to severe strain during everyday activities, when exercising or at work. It forms a hinge between the thigh and lower leg bones, and it is stabilized by an intricate interplay between muscles, tendons and ligaments. That is why it is very prone to injuries or conditions that are sometimes accompanied by severe pain. Knee problems can have all sorts of causes – finding the trigger is the first step to controlling the pain. Find out more here about the most common disorders and treatments that will help you maintain your knee health in the long term.
The most common knee injuries and knee conditions at a glance
The anatomy of the knee
Most people don’t even think about the anatomy of the knee joint until it starts hurting: the knee joint is where the thigh (1) and lower (2/3) leg bones meet. In between these bones is the meniscus (4), formed of disks of cartilage which fill the spaces in the joint. In front of these disks lies the kneecap (5), which helps the anterior thigh muscles extend the lower leg. Collateral ligaments (6) guide the knee joint and secure it when standing. The cruciate ligaments (7) act as the safety rope when bending the knee. This movement is carried out jointly by the thigh muscle (8) and the lower leg muscle (9). The thigh muscle is solely responsible for the extension.
All these elements are required so the knee can be mobile and reliably withstand all strain it is subjected to. Injuries and conditions of the knee joint, or one of its components, impair its function and result in pain.
What to do in cases of knee pain?
If one of the following three signs applies to you, you should let a physician, ideally an orthopedic specialist or a sports physician, have a look at your knee joint:
- Your knee pain has lasted for longer than two days.
- Your knee also hurts when it is not subjected to strain.
- The mobility of your knee is restricted, or you experience stability problems when walking or standing.
Depending on the cause of your knee problem and taking into consideration various factors, such as your physical condition or typical strain, a physician will prescribe personalized treatment measures. Non-surgical treatment options can include rest, cooling, pain medication or creams, physiotherapy and targeted movement to allow injuries to heal and to manage pain. A knee support also alleviates pain in many cases. Additionally, this type of orthopedic medical product provides the knee with stability and relief.
Knee supports – everything you need to know:
A knee support is not a stylish accessory but rather a medical product that can relieve pain, support the healing process, or be used as a preventive measure. To get the most out of a knee support, you need to make sure it fits as perfectly as possible – and not only because that makes it comfortable to wear. Most modern supports deliver a range of effects – knee supports, for example, have an overall compressive effect, but also provide support, relieve pressure, and massage specific areas of the knee. If the knee support doesn’t fit properly, such active effects can only be partially achieved, or not achieved at all.
For this reason, we strongly recommend that you consult an expert at your local medical supply retailer and have your knee area measured there before you purchase a knee support. The expert will select from the large range of knee supports for various conditions exactly the right support for your symptoms and build. This ensures that you’ll quickly achieve maximum success with your knee support.
A knee support can be purchased in a retail store (medical supply retailer, pharmacy) even without a prescription or an instruction issued by a physician. However, it makes sense in most cases to consult a physician first if a medical indication exists. If your physician issues a prescription for a knee support, you will be reimbursed by your health insurance company for most of the cost. If you don’t have a prescription, you will have to pay the full price for your knee support.
If a physician issues a prescription for a knee support, your health insurance company will cover nearly the entire cost – your copayment will be minimal. The amount of your copayment will depend on the given situation (e.g. the reason for the prescription, the urgency of your condition, your most recent reimbursement for a medical aid). You can also purchase a knee support at any medical supply retailer without a prescription, of course, as there are no legal restrictions on the purchase of such medical products. However, in that case you will not be reimbursed by your health insurance company. In addition, you may in fact have to purchase a knee support on your own if you’ve been reimbursed for such a support in the last two years. If you’re not sure, you should contact your health insurance company.
Your physician is primarily responsible for determining whether a knee support or a knee orthosis is the better solution for treating your condition. You can find more information about the difference between a knee support and a knee orthosis here.
Knee supports are fitted to the body and can therefore come into contact with perspiration or flakes of skin, for example. This means that they must be washable – which is the case with supports from Bauerfeind. Washing is actually very important in order to ensure that the compression of the knitted fabric remains intact and the support retains its shape.
What’s the right way to wash a knee support? Ideally, the support should be washed with a mild detergent in a mesh bag at 30 °C. The spin cycle should be no higher than 500 revolutions per minute. You should air-dry the knee support after washing (avoid exposure to direct sunlight). You should avoid using a dryer or any other drying method that involves heat (e.g. a radiator), as this could quickly damage the fabric and thus reduce the effectiveness of the support.
We strongly recommend that you do not wear a knee support over your clothing. For one thing, doing so will prevent the proprioceptive properties from taking effect and also inhibit the activation/training of the sensorimotor system. In addition, clothing absorbs nearly all of the positive effects of the individual functional elements. For example, instead of experiencing a slight massaging effect in certain areas and pressure application or relief in others, your clothing will press against your painful knee in a more or less uncontrolled manner. This is not only inefficient; it can also be painful and lead to chafing (skin irritation).
Knee supports from Bauerfeind are also sometimes known as “active supports“ – i.e. they make it easier for those who wear them to move around. It’s actually this movement that enables the supports to have their positive effect on the body and the healing process. The massage function and the intermittent compression cannot be activated when you’re immobile, however. For this reason, wearing the support at night is not effective. It’s better if you wear the knee support during the day when you’re active and then let your knee relax at night.
Ten tips for healthy knees
Implement the following tips to benefit your knees to prevent pain:
- Be active every day.
- Choose knee-friendly exercise, such as swimming, cycling or walking, also for its great recreational effect.
- Carry heavy loads in a way that is gentle on the knees – in a backpack, for example.
- Avoid excessive bending of the knees under extreme loads.
- If possible, relieve your knee joints, for example, by stretching out your legs when you’re sitting.
- Whenever possible, avoid standing or kneeling for long periods.
- Make sure your shoes are cushioned if you spend a lot of time on your feet.
- Generally wear shoes with flat heels and, if required, use orthopedic foot orthoses.
- Watch your weight because obesity subjects your knees to additional strain.
- Use targeted exercises to strengthen your leg muscles on a regular basis.