How A Knee Brace Can Help Ease The Pain of Arthritis

WCBS-TV News—July 20, 2012

Howard Hillstrom, Ph.D., of the Leon Root, M.D. Motion Analysis Laboratory at Hospital for Special Surgery and his patient, Robert Blau, provide first hand information on an innovative knee brace study for osteoarthritis.


One in two Americans will develop painful knee arthritis in their lifetime and that number jumps to two out of three if you’re overweight or obese and that often leads to knee replacement. But Dr. Max Gomez says there might be an easier way to ease that pain.

Dr. Max Gomez: That’s right, last year there were about seven hundred thousand knee replacements done in this country and that number keeps going up. It’s a very effective procedure for knee arthritis but it is major surgery with a long rehab period. But what if a simple brace on your knee can keep you out of the OR.

You can probably tell that math professor Robert Blau is somewhat bowlegged. That's what led to painful osteoarthritis in his left knee.

Robert Blau: It really hurt, it hurt on the inside of the knee, and it was just exceedingly painful to the point that you didn't want to walk.

Gomez: Blau’s bowlegs caused a misalignment in his knee that led to a greatly increased load in one part of the knee. But worn out cartilage is osteoarthritis. He was told all he could do was have a knee replacement--but what if you could avoid surgery by realigning the arthritic knee.

Dr. Howard Hillstrom: Even a degree of off-loading, of a change in the angle can be a significant difference in terms of loading to another compartment of the knee.

Gomez: To off-load the painful knee, Blau was fitted with a custom-designed brace that would realign his knee. It was part of a study in the Motion Analysis Lab at Hospital for Special Surgery. Special motion capture cameras analyzed his gait from all angles. They showed that the brace did slightly realign his knee.

Hillstrom: In doing so, we've seen in our patients a 30 percent reduction in pain.

Gomez: That may not sound like much but Blau was walking more smoothly and more importantly...

Blau: I can walk to synagogue again, over a mile each way. My life is more normal.

Gomez: The brace may look a little cumbersome but Blau wears it seven days a week, whenever he is going to be on his feet.

Blau: I don't know it's there. Most people don’t know I am wearing a brace when I tell them. For me it has been a blessing, yes, a real blessing. I am incredibly grateful.

Gomez: That 30 percent pain reduction from the brace may not sound like a lot but it is as much as medication achieves. And for many people it is enough to avoid surgery. They may eventually need knee replacement surgery but maybe not for years and technology will be that much better then.

View the segment at newyork.cbslocal.com.

Learn more about the study discussed in this report.

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