Doctors prescribe knee braces for either structural support or pain relief. If you are recovering from a surgical procedure, a knee injury, or if you're having joint or muscle pain you might be using a knee brace.
Knee braces can range in size and complexity from a simple knee sleeve up to a rehabilitative device with rigid metal bars and hinges. The larger braces restrict mobility to aid with healing. The smaller ones offer support to lessen pain.
One of the most common questions while using a knee brace is “should you wear a knee brace to bed.” The answer is yes, but it comes with conditions.
Can I Wear a Knee Brace to Bed?
So, can you wear a knee brace to bed? Not only can you, but you should. No matter the type of brace, it's invaluably effective to wear it during rest periods. The brace lessens inflammation and swelling, as well as lowers other risks.
While sleeping, we lose control of our movement. It's critical to maintain the stability of the joints and muscles during sleep to avoid reversing medical treatment.
The primary reasons for wearing a knee brace to bed are that keeping the knee structure intact and in alignment facilitates healing, minimizes the risk for further injury, and averts additional pain.
The knee's structure is fragile during healing and turning or thrashing during sleep can easily jeopardize the detailed repair work of a surgeon. Aside from preserving the rehabilitation, you also need to prevent further damage to the delicate ligaments, joints, and tendons.
The support and compression that knee braces offer play a major role in reducing pain from the injury. A doctor will provide you with a comprehensive pain management plan that includes other therapies and medication in addition to a brace, but the brace's redistribution of pressure on the area makes a unique impact.
Brace compression forces down swelling and inflammation which both cause an increase in pain. The warmth of the brace's fabric also contributes to muscle relief.
How to Wear a Knee Brace to Bed
While you're wondering "should I wear a knee brace to bed?" the main concern probably surrounds your comfort level with the brace on during sleep and how that can impact your overall sleep quality.
Let's go through the top comfort concerns that knee brace-using patients have and address how to appropriately navigate them without jeopardizing recovery.
Utilize Cold Therapy
Icing the knee aids in the recovery process from an acute injury. A doctor or surgeon will give you specific instructions for icing the injury, but it's common practice to use ice on the area before sleeping in the knee brace.
Ice's cold temperature alleviates pain by slowing the nerve signals. That's where a numbing sensation comes from. It also diminishes blood flow to the area which weakens pain-generating chemicals.
Ice also restricts surface blood vessels to minimize excess fluid building to reduce swelling. Taking these proactive steps with cold therapy before putting the brace on for sleep is one way to set yourself up for comfort.
You can use a standard gel ice pack, crushed ice in a resealable bag, or a bag of frozen meat or vegetables. Simply place the ice pack against the injury.
Another option for cold therapy is a cooling menthol spray. Menthol is an active ingredient that targets pain by triggering certain nerves. You can also apply an ice massage with an ice popsicle by applying it to the area of injury in circular motions.
The wisest way to use cold therapy before wearing a knee brace to bed is to remove the brace and apply ice for 20 minutes and then allow a rest period of around 10 minutes before securing the brace back into position.
Some doctors and surgeons might recommend alternating between cold therapy and heat therapy. It all depends on the specifics of your injury and pain level.
Take Pain Medication
After surgery or other medical treatments, you'll often have a prescription for pain medication. Don't shy away from following the prescription accurately and taking the medication to minimize your pain level before settling in for the night.
Aside from prescription painkillers, over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and Ibuprofen are great options for contributing to swelling and pain reduction. As with prescription medications, always take pills exactly as the instructions direct you.
Plan your medication schedule to allow for a dose close to bedtime. The lower your pain levels, the better your rest will be. The most productive bodily healing happens during rest periods, so it's critical to get your body in the deepest rest mode possible while nursing a knee injury, and pain medication will help you do that.
Move With Rehabilitation Exercises
You can take advantage of the movement's healing power once your surgeon or doctor clears you for rehabilitation exercise. Part of the reason why people find it difficult to sleep while wearing a knee brace is the psychological impact of feeling constriction.
Safe exercises help lift the mental agitation that comes with the persistent restriction of movement. You'll find it easier to allow yourself to rest after engaging in the healing activity before heading into a night of supported structure.
You can get specific instructions from a medical professional for rehabilitation exercises. The most common activities encourage stretching, strengthening, and improving range of motion and function through bending and extending.
Here are two basic rehabilitation exercises to practice before getting into bed with your brace:
- Straight Leg Lifts - Lay on your back on the floor. Keep one leg extended straight and bend the other at a 90-degree angle. Slowly raise the straight leg one foot above the ground and then lower it back down. Repeat a few times using one leg before switching to the other leg.
- Sit and Stands - Sit on the edge of a stiff chair and keep your legs shoulder-width apart. Rise to a standing position without using your arms. Reverse the motion to return to sitting and repeat as many times as possible.
Engage in Skin Care
Wearing a knee brace for long periods can severely irritate and dry out the skin. Before you put the knee brace on for bed, thoroughly apply lotion to the injury site. Moisturizing will help to prevent itching, chaffing, and other uncomfortable aggravations that disrupt sleep.
Neglecting your skin while using a knee brace can cause rashes and infections in addition to discomfort. Use lotion generously to deeply moisturize skin rubbing against the brace.
People often overlook attending to their skin during the recovery period. It's another simple way to lessen irritants that interfere with solid rest and therefore healing.
Secure the Brace Properly
You need to readjust the brace before settling into bed for the night. It should be tighter overnight than during the day because you're wearing it to restrict movement while sleeping.
Tighten the straps to secure and stabilize the knee structure without impeding circulation. Don't tighten it to the point of discomfort, just to where it's holding the muscles in enough place that tossing and turning won't harm them.
Position Yourself Well and Bolster With Pillows
Your surgeon or doctor will explain the importance of elevation during recovery. Maintaining elevation is markedly important while sleeping in a knee brace overnight. You can do this by using extra pillows or other support.
Sleeping on your back sets you up for proper elevation and neutral alignment. It keeps pressure off of your knee to promote healing and minimize pain.
If you find it challenging or impossible to sleep soundly on your back, make sure to reinforce the knee safely and comfortably by placing a pillow between the thighs.
You shouldn't sleep with your body weight resting against the knee with an injury. That puts additional stress on the area that you're trying to protect. You can find knee injury-specific pillows or stools with designs that have an injury in mind, but any extra pillows will do the job.
On top of placing supports under the knee to reach the elevation point higher than the heart, you should place pillows on either side of you to discourage rolling or significant shifting during sleep.
Optimize Sleep Environment and Habits
Enhance your sleep experience when you wear a knee brace to bed by making simple adjustments. You can switch to lightweight bedding and add a fan to prevent overheating while wearing the brace.
Turn on a sound machine, use an oil diffuser, or otherwise enhance your bedtime routine to best facilitate rest. Some people invest in higher-quality pillows or mattresses if they're going to sleep in a knee brace for an extensive period.
Taking additional supplements or over-the-counter sleep aids works for some patients who struggle with getting comfortable in the knee brace overnight. Others add practices like reading or meditation. Take control of both the psychological and physical environments to promote comfortable sleep.
Check in With Your Medical Team
It's important to stay in communication with your care team during the recovery period. If you're having difficulty sleeping while wearing your knee brace and none of the usual techniques are helping, they might offer new suggestions, medications, or other remedies to get your rest back on track.
Should You Wear a Knee Brace to Bed?
So should you sleep in a knee brace? Yes, you should wear your knee brace to bed to lower the risk for further injury or reversal of medical treatment and to alleviate knee pain.
Employ safe methods that promote comfort and healing like using pain medication, cold therapy, rehabilitation exercises, proper positioning and elevation, brace adjustment, environmental and routine upgrades, and moisturizing the skin underneath the brace. Relief is just around the corner find your knee immobilizer brace (check out products) at Brace.Direct.