If your knees bother you during workouts or runs, and your solution is to suck it up and throw an ice pack on 'em, then consider this advice from Keith Scott, a physical therapist and strength coach based in New Jersey. Those bionic-looking knee bands, and neon KT Tape you see on professional athletes aren't just for show, it turns out. Scott shares when they're useful in relieving pain and safeguarding against injury.
There are two types of knee injuries, acute and chronic. Acute injuries are sudden and traumatic like a broken bone, a torn muscle, or a snapped ligament. Chronic injuries, on the other hand, are attributed to overuse and occur over time, like stress fractures, bone cracking or popping, tendinitis, and other pain syndromes. And while acute trauma really can’t be prevented, Scott says braces and tape can help chronic injuries.
“Both braces and KT Tape can help 'awaken' the brain-muscle connection and in essence, help the body brace better [against] impact,” Scott says. With braces, you can find a customized fit and style that caters to your injury. Runner’s Knee involves pain behind or around the kneecap; Illiotibial (IT) Band Syndrome involves the fibrous tissue alongside the outside of the leg, from hip to shin; and Jumper’s Knee causes pain at the bottom and front of the kneecap. Depending on your injury or the severity of your irritation, you may want a brace that pulls over your knee, a wrap around or knee strap that places pressure on the front of your knee, or a hinged brace that stabilizes the entire area. Talk to your doctor, or try out different varieties to see which feels best.
"KT Tape is used a lot with people who already have injuries or pain and, in these instances, the external tape can alleviate some pain and allow the athlete to move normally (or close to it)", Scott says. When applied properly, it can relieve swelling, inflammation, and compression by decreasing pressure. The tape recoils, creating a lifting effect on the skin that diminishes discomfort. There’s even a new model, KT Tape Pro X, made from a specially engineered, ultra-durable synthetic fabric that provides added durability and increased strength. You can wear it for up to seven days of support—wardrobe and office dress code permitting.
“Anytime you can stop pain, move better, and allow the body to brace itself, you have a much better chance at preventing injuries,” Scott says.