Spring Knee Braces – What You Need to Know

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In your search for a knee brace, you may have come across braces with built-in springs to provide support and assist leg extension. But will a spring knee brace really work for you? The short answer is that it depends on the quality and power of the springs and what you hope to achieve. The rest of this article is intended to help answer that question in full. We’ll explain what to look for in a spring knee brace, and how new liquid spring technology is redefining what knee braces are capable of.

What is a Spring Knee Brace?

A spring knee brace is a type of hinged brace. The springs absorb some of the force going through the knee like a shock absorber on a bike or a car. If the brace is well designed, this reduces pressure on the joint, which can help relieve pain from a variety of injuries and conditions. The best spring knee braces also have the unique ability to assist knee extension.

How Does it Work?

Person squatting while wearing a spring knee brace.

To understand how a spring knee brace works, picture using it to perform a squat. As you bend your knees to squat down, the forces in your knee joint increase by several times your body weight. The spring compresses and provides resistance to absorb some of this force and protect your knee. At this point, the compressed spring is storing energy. When you straighten your knees to stand up, the spring decompresses and releases this energy. If the spring is powerful enough (depending on the brace), the energy released will assist your muscles to help you stand up, reducing the forces exerted on your knee by your quadriceps. By absorbing body weight and assisting knee extension, spring knee braces can reduce pressure and pain throughout the knee’s range of motion.

Who Should Use a Spring Knee Brace?

There are lots of different applications for spring knee braces. They can help treat a variety of knee injuries and conditions, including:

A spring knee brace can be especially useful for treating knee osteoarthritis (OA) because it can unload the knee joint. Pain from OA is usually caused by bone on bone contact in the knee. Wearing a brace to unload the joint reduces pressure and bone on bone contact, which helps to relieve pain. A spring knee brace can be a great treatment option if you want to stay active, manage your symptoms, and avoid knee replacement surgery.

Comparing the Types of Spring Knee Brace

There could be several different ways to classify the types of spring knee braces. For the purpose of this article, we’ll define each type of brace by the design of the spring. Spring braces can either use a solid spring or a liquid spring.

  • Solid spring knee brace – uses conventional solid springs made out of materials like elastics, polymers, and/or metals.
  • Liquid spring knee brace – uses a hydraulic suspension system that compresses fluid in an ultra-strong cylinder to store energy when the knee is bent.

Solid Spring Knee Brace

While they can provide some support, solid spring knee braces are often limited in their ability to produce force. That’s because it’s difficult to make a solid spring small enough to fit in a knee brace but also powerful enough to absorb a significant amount of body weight and assist knee extension. As a result, most solid spring knee braces don’t provide a lot of benefit or pain relief. However, there are some notable solid spring knee braces that might be able to help you, depending on your situation. A couple examples include:

  • Ski Mojo – designed to reduce pain and fatigue for skiers.
  • Cadence Biomedical’s Kickstart – a rehabilitation device designed to help those with spinal cord injuries or neuromuscular conditions regain walking ability.

Liquid Spring Knee Brace

Unlike solid springs, a liquid spring can be made small and powerful enough to reduce joint compression and assist knee extension. They work in a similar way to bicycle suspension or aircraft landing gear systems. Combining liquid springs with a well designed hinge allows a knee brace to absorb a significant amount of force to relieve pressure and pain in the knee. Since liquid springs can absorb a lot of force, they can also return a sufficient amount of energy to assist knee extension.

The spring and hinge used in a liquid spring knee brace.
The liquid spring (silver) and hinge (blue) in Spring Loaded’s Levitation knee brace.

Choosing a Spring Knee Brace

Here are a few things to look for when choosing a spring knee brace.

Powerful Springs

The more powerful the springs, the greater the potential improvements in pain and mobility. As explained above, liquid spring knee braces are more powerful than solid spring knee braces. This means they can absorb more of your body weight and assist knee extension, resulting in less pressure and pain in your joint.

Knee Extension Assist

Braces with knee extension assist (KEA) are very useful for managing knee pain and recovering from injury, particularly if you have muscle imbalances and weaknesses. Stronger leg muscles provide added support for your knee, and can help reduce pain and the likelihood of re-injury. If you’re rehabilitating an injury or struggling with a chronic condition (e.g. osteoarthritis), a spring knee brace with KEA may help you improve your strength and muscular control. It also might allow you to stay active for longer while avoiding knee pain and muscle fatigue.

Adjustable Assistance

It’s useful to be able to adjust the assistance provided by the spring hinge. For example, if you need lots of support for a certain activity (e.g. walking up or down stairs), then you can turn the assistance up to unload your knee more. If you need less support for a certain activity (e.g. walking on flat ground) or as your knee gets healthier, then you can turn the assistance down so your knees and muscles do most of the work.

Backed by Evidence

When deciding on a spring knee brace, look for ones that have been thoroughly researched and tested. Make sure that the company selling you the brace can back up their claims with evidence to show that their brace actually works the way it’s designed to. That way you can be more confident you’re making the right decision.

So now you know what to look for in a spring knee brace: powerful springs, knee extension assist, adjustable assistance, and evidence to back up its effectiveness. But is there a spring knee brace that can check all of these boxes?

The Levitation Knee Brace

Spring Loaded’s Levitation is the only spring knee brace that uses the power of patented liquid spring technology to provide total joint unloading and adjustable knee extension assist. Its lightweight and streamlined design is perfect for those looking to stay active while reducing knee pain and improving mobility.

Labelled diagram of Spring Loaded's Levitation knee brace.

Extensive research has gone into the development of the Levitation’s liquid springs and the brace itself. Scientific studies of Levitation have found that the brace can reduce joint forces across the entire knee by over 40% during a deep knee bend,1 which is equivalent to a level that would be achieved by losing 45 lbs of body weight.2 By comparison, another knee extension assist brace (the Guardian OA Rehabilitator) provides unloading equivalent to losing just 6 lbs of body weight.2 Levitation can provide over 7 times this amount of assistance. That’s the power of liquid spring technology.

Levitation's spring loaded hinge powers your movements.

Benefits

The level of joint unloading provided by Levitation translates to immediate improvements in knee pain and mobility. A systematic survey of Levitation users with knee osteoarthritis found that:

  • 95% reported significantly reduced pain since using the brace.
  • 85% experienced mobility improvements.
  • 86% reported an improvement in their quality of life.
  • On average, Levitation users were able to increase their physical activity levels by 8 hours per week.

Learn More

If you think Levitation might be the best knee brace for you, please feel free to contact a bracing specialist by clicking the button below.

For more information about the different types of knee braces and how to choose the best one, check out these resources:

References

  1. McGibbon, C.A., Brandon, S., Bishop, E.L., Cowper-Smith, C.D., and Biden, E. (2020). Biomechanical study of a tricompartmental unloader brace for patellofemoral or multicompartment knee osteoarthritis. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 8.
  2. Budarick, A.R., MacKeil, B. E., Fitzgerald, S., and Cowper-Smith, C.D. (2020). Design evaluation of a novel multicompartment unloader knee brace. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 142(1).