Do knee braces cause muscle wasting?
It’s often stated that knee braces can cause muscle wasting, if used for too long. However there has been very little research into this. A study this year (2016) by Callaghan et al. (reference below) assessed 108 patients using braces for OA of the patella-femoral joint. They found that the maximum voluntary contraction of the quadricep (thigh) muscles did not reduce with brace use.
So it’s fine to use a knee brace?
All studies have limitations. This study only assessed a flexible knee support, so we can’t apply the findings across all knee braces – these will need to be assessed separately.
Any other limitations?
Yes- the study was only over 18 weeks. We do not know what would happen in people who wear braces longer than this.
Using a flexible brace appears not to have a detrimental effect on the quadricep muscles in the short term. Anyone wishing to wear a knee brace longer than this period should discuss this with their physiotherapist.
Reference: Callaghan M, Parkes M, and Felson D 2016 The Effect of Knee Braces on Quadriceps Strength and Inhibition in Subjects With Patellofemoral Osteoarthritis
Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy