Improvements in Function and Strength with Decompressive Bracing of the Osteoarthritic Knee

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Abstract

Introduction

The aim of this study was to investigate if a decompressive knee brace used in the presence of unicompartment knee osteoarthritis (OA) alters knee strength, walking endurance, balance abilities, perception of pain, symptoms, activities of daily living (ADLs), and quality of life (QoL).

Materials and Methods

Nineteen individuals with unilateral unicompartment knee OA participated. Participants wore a knee brace for 6 months that decompresses the OA compartment. Muscle strength, 6-minute walk test (6MWT) distance, and balance abilities were assessed at baseline and at 2 weeks (post) and 8 weeks (final) after receiving the brace. The Knee Osteoarthritis Outcome Survey (KOOS: domains of pain, symptoms, ADLs, and QoL) and the Activities-specific Balance Confidence (ABC) scale were used at baseline, brace fitting, post, final, 3 months, and 6 months.

Results

Muscle strength into knee extension and flexion increased at final compared with that at baseline (P < 0.05). The 6MWT distance improved by 68 m at final compared with that at baseline. Improvements on the KOOS and ABC were found at 6 months compared with that at baseline (P < 0.05). No changes in balance abilities were identified (P > 0.05).

Conclusions

Using a decompressive knee brace is beneficial for individuals with unicompartment knee OA. Brace use results in reduced pain, symptoms, improved ADLs, and QoL as well as increases in knee muscle strength and walking capacity.

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