Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Risk factors for this condition include family history, trauma, injury to the joint, and obesity.
OA is a disease of articular cartilage, the gristle that caps and cushions the ends of long bones and allows the joint to glide. With OA, the cartilage begins to wear away prematurely. Weight-bearing areas such as the neck, low back, hips, and knees are the areas most often involved. The knee, since it is so important for normal ambulation, is the joint that appears to give most patients a problem.
The treatment of symptomatic OA of the knee revolves around patient education, maintenance of ideal weight, exercise (stretching, strengthening, nonimpact aerobic), assistive devices such as canes or walkers if necessary, topical rubs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), injections of glucocorticoid (cortisone) or viscosupplements (lubricants) into the joint, and sometimes surgery.
One frequently neglected mode of treatment is bracing. Braces come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. Braces are divided into two different groups, soft braces, and hard braces. Soft braces or 0sleeves0 are made of stretchable material such as synthetic cloth material or neoprene. Soft braces are designed to be either pulled up to fit around the knee.