The patella, also known as the kneecap, is a rounded triangular bone that connects the upper leg to the lower leg. This bone, fastened through a series of tendons and ligaments, attaches the leg together by floating over the femur, or thigh bone, and the tibia and fibula, the shin bones. A patella brace is an external support device used to help stabilize the knee and help the knee cap glide smoothly as the lower leg moves. It is also utilized in the healing process after a knee injury or knee surgery.
When pain is experienced in the knee, difficulties may occur in common daily movements or athletic activities. This may impair the ability to perform even the most basic activities such as walking. Problems with the kneecap may include injuries which damage the knee bone, the adjoining thigh or shin bones, or the supporting tendons and ligaments what aid the kneecap in gliding over those bones. When the continuity and fluid motion of the kneecap is disrupted, a patella brace may ease pain symptoms and aid in restoring normal movement.
When bones come together and are linked, this area is known as a joint. The knee joint, consisting of the patella, femur, tibia and fibula has a flexible tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet called cartilage. Certain medical conditions such as chondromalacia patella, also known as patellofemoral syndrome, is a situation where this cartilage becomes softened, thus causing pain in the knee. This disorder may also cause a disturbance in the free-flowing motion of the knee which may be aided by the use of a patella brace.
The structure of a patella brace is dependent on the causes of knee pain and dysfunction. If the patella tracking or gliding is disrupted or painful, a simple patella band may be used to support the knee and encourage appropriate kneecap movement. If the knee sustained an injury such as damage to the bones, tendons or ligaments, or if the patella becomes dislocated, a patella brace enclosing the knee from the upper thigh to the shin with a cutout of the kneecap may be necessary for proper support during healing.
If there is a need for additional support of the knee or if there is a circumstance where knee movement needs to be restricted to avoid further injury, common after knee surgery, a patella brace with metal upright stays on either side of the knee may be used. These stays come with an optional locking mechanism to restrict knee movement. This is accomplished either by limiting the amount the knee can move or by locking it in one position.