BACKGROUND: We aimed to (i) evaluate the immediate effect of a soft knee brace on pain, activity limitations, self-reported knee instability, and self-reported knee confidence, and (ii) to assess the difference in effect between a non-tight and a tight soft brace in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA).
METHODS: Forty-four patients with knee OA and self-reported knee instability participated in the single-session, laboratory, experimental study. A within-subject design was used, comparing a soft brace with no brace, and comparing a non-tight with a tight soft brace. The outcome measures were pain, self-reported knee instability and knee confidence during level and perturbed walking on the treadmill and activity limitations (10-m walk test and the get up and go (GUG) test). Linear mixed-effect model analysis for continuous outcomes and logistic generalized estimating equations for categorical outcomes were used to evaluate the effect of wearing a soft brace.
RESULTS: Wearing a soft brace significantly reduced pain during level walking (B - 0.60, P = 0.001) and perturbed walking (B - 0.80, P < 0.001), reduced the time to complete the 10-m walk (B - 0.23, P < 0.001) and the GUG tests (B - 0.23, P = 0.004), reduced self-reported knee instability during level walking (OR 0.41, P = 0.002) and perturbed walking (OR 0.36, P < 0.001), and reduced lack of confidence in the knees during level walking (OR 0.45, P < 0.001) and perturbed walking (OR 0.56, P < 0.001), compared with not wearing a soft brace. There was no difference in effects between a non-tight and tight brace, except for the 10-m walk test. Wearing a tight brace significantly reduced the time to complete the 10-m walk test in comparison with wearing a non-tight brace (B - 0.11, P = 0.03).
CONCLUSION: The results of this study indicate that a soft brace is an efficacious intervention targeting pain, activity limitations, self-reported knee instability, and knee confidence in the immediate term in patients with knee OA. Further studies are needed evaluating the mode of action based on exerted pressure, and on the generalization to functioning in daily life.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: trialregister.nl, NTR6363 . Retrospectively registered on 15 May 2017.