Patella Support | What to Do After a Patellar Fracture
A broken kneecap, or patellar fracture, can be a painful injury with a challenging recovery period. That’s because a patellar fracture makes everyday movement like walking or bending the knee difficult or even impossible.
While recovery from a fractured patella can be challenging, there are things you can do to improve the treatment—like physical therapy and the use of patella support braces. Here, we’ll cover the important details that you need to know.
Types of Fracture
Before determining a course of treatment, you need to know what kind of fracture you’re dealing with.
There are two main types of patellar fracture—stable and unstable. Stable, or nondisplaced, fractures occur when the bone fractures but remains in one (stable) piece. Unstable, or displaced, fractures occur when the bone fractures completely and the ends of the broken bone no longer line up.
Comminuted fractures occur when the bone shatters into more than two pieces. This type of injury can produce either a stable or unstable fracture. Open fractures occur when the skin surrounding the break is broken, either by the bone penetrating outward or a wound penetrating inward.
Minor, stable fractures can often be treated with rest, restrictive patella support braces, and physical therapy. Unstable fractures, however, often require surgery to ensure proper healing and a return to full range of motion.
A medical examination is the only way to reveal what type of patellar fracture you may have. A doctor will order X-rays to determine the extent of your injury and treatment options.
Treatment and Recovery
The extent of your injury will dictate your specific recovery treatment plan. Whether you have surgery or not, your treatment will most likely require:
- Pain management
- Ice therapy
- Limited movement and activity
- Limited weight bearing
- The use of a patella support brace
- Physical therapy
One of the most important aspects of any patellar fracture recovery is rest. Whether you have a minor, stable fracture or a major, unstable fracture, you’ll need time to let the body heal.
During the rest phase of your recovery, you may use ice therapy and elevate your leg to reduce swelling. Mild analgesics can help manage pain and ease swelling.
Mild, stable patellar fractures can be healed with just a few weeks or even days of rest while more severe injuries may require you to be off your feet for weeks or even months.
Rehabilitation and physical therapy will play an important role in your recovery plan. Because patellar injuries often require immobility as part of the treatment, you may have to overcome stiffness, atrophy, and weakness during your rehabilitation.
Your doctor and/or physical therapist will create an individualized rehab and exercise plan to strengthen your leg, improve range of movement, decrease stiffness and inflammation, and encourage proper patella tracking.
The use of knee braces and supports will help your knee heal properly. What’s more, sleeves and stabilizers keep injured parts of your body in place, reducing pain and inflammation and promoting a speedy recovery.
There are many different kinds of braces and sleeves that offer patella support. Choose the one that provides the right range of motion, stability, and compression for your injury.
If your patellar fracture is severe enough to require surgery, you’ll need a dependable brace for post-surgery protection. A knee immobilizer provides non-weight-bearing support to allow optimal healing while preventing further injury. The hinged design locks the knee in place to completely prevent motion of the joint.
ROM Hinged Braces
Whereas a knee immobilizer completely prevents motion, a ROM (range of motion) hinged brace simply keeps your knee in proper alignment and limits your range of motion so you don’t aggravate the injury during the delicate healing process. A ROM brace is typically less restrictive than an immobilizer but still aids your recovery.
ROM hinged braces can be full coverage or open depending on the type of brace your injury requires. Speak to your healthcare professional to find out what type of ROM hinged brace is right for your recovery plan.
Non-ROM Hinged Braces
While a ROM hinged brace restricts your range of motion, a non-ROM hinged brace allows you to move more freely. It still contains specially designed hinges for flexibility and support, but it provides easy on and off support and protection. These braces deliver stabilization and movement control to encourage rehabilitation and proper alignment.
In general, these braces should be used when the goal of the brace isn’t to restrict movement but to protect against further injury and develop good movement habits. This type of brace is better for non-surgical and non-displaced fractures.
Wraparound braces and sleeves are exactly what they sound like—braces that wrap around the knee for 360-degree support and protection. Some wraparound braces have hinges and some do not. They provide about the same level of support as a standard non-ROM brace, so they’re typically best for injury prevention as opposed to recovery.
Patella Compression Sleeves
Patella compression sleeves offer compression for knee injuries that don’t require the restrictions of a hinged brace. These patella support sleeves work well for mild injuries or severe injuries that are further along in the treatment plan.
Sleeves use compression to:
- Minimize swelling and inflammation
- Encourage proper alignment and motion
- Develop proper movement techniques
They can even be worn after treatment to prevent re-injury.
Open or Closed Patella Support?
As you begin searching through the various supports, knee braces, and other wraps, you’ll notice that some have an open hole over the kneecap area and some are completely covered. Open patella braces (the ones that leave the kneecap uncovered) offer more movement and flexibility than closed patella braces.
Speak to your doctor about which option is right for you.
The Support You Need
A patella fracture can be an incredibly painful injury. Recovery can be challenging, especially if the injury is severe enough to require immobility or surgery. The use of patella support braces, wraps, sleeves, and straps can help you rehabilitate your injury and develop healthy and properly aligned movement.
Finding the right knee brace for your needs is about understanding your injury, what level of support you need, and what treatment plan your doctor has outlined for you. If you have any questions on which patella support brace is right for you, please let us know.