Embracing the Knee Brace
I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knee when I was in my mid-forties. At the time, I was a competitive tennis player and decided I would try anything to stay on the court and keep my knee feeling stable. That’s when I started flying through types of knee braces like most women do dresses.
I started with a brace that covered above and below my knee, but had a hole right in the middle for my kneecap. I guessed it was to allow my kneecap to breathe, but I found it uncomfortable. It didn’t do much to decrease my pain, and it inhibited my mobility a great deal.
I then tried a small velcro brace that I wore right below my knee cap. That provided me with some support and allowed me to be mobile on the courts. The brace was sufficient for me to play tennis at that time.
Eventually, I again graduated to another brace. I was at a tennis center south of Atlanta and saw someone wearing a brace below their knee. The brace had a white, plastic device that held the kneecap in the middle. It velcroed around the back and provided a little more support than just a velcro brace without a plastic device. However, it still wasn’t enough support for all my activities.
The brace I use today, I wear when I’m playing tennis, doing yard work, walking, or standing for long periods of time. It provides much more support above and below the knee, without restricting my mobility, as a bigger brace might.
All the braces mentioned above are available without a prescription. I did not go to a doctor to get them, and many of them can be found online. The brace I currently use, I read about in the magazine Arthritis Today. I enjoy this publication, because it keeps me up to date on supplements and has inspiring stories about people who have learned to live with their osteoarthritis. It gives me ideas about what I can do in terms of exercise and diet. It also has many advertisements for knee replacements, which I am trying to avoid.
My initial inspiration for finding the perfect brace was to be able to remain on the court, but I actually gave up competitive tennis years ago. It has become difficult to play all the sets without tiring. If I do get tired or my knee begins to ache, I can’t walk off the court in a competitive set and just say, “Goodbye doubles partner!” But I can when I’m playing for fun.
Even though I still may be able to play tennis for fun, I choose not to, because I want to do whatever I can to keep my knee healthy. I’ve been playing competitive sports since I was 14. I do miss it, but my priorities have changed. At this point in my life, I have the pleasure of keeping my grandchildren. I want to stay pain-free so I am able to pick them up, transport them to activities, and accompany them to dance class or music class. This is a choice I made. It’s all about choices. I can’t stress enough that prevention and maintenance, even though it is tiresome, is very important if you want to make sure you can continue to do whatever you love to do. So be proactive in figuring out what keeps you pain-free. Find your perfect brace. And embrace it.
Stella Ross is the mother of two grown children and three grandchildren. She and her husband, Ralph, live outside of Atlanta.
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