After suffering from a knee injury, recovery is essential. No matter the success of the surgery, if you don’t follow the strict advice of your surgeon, you may fail to get better. Most doctors recommend using a knee brace or knee immobilizer while in recovery. But most of the time, following the doctor’s guidance sounds easier than it is.
The injury itself is already stressful, without considering all the contraptions that may bring anxiety and frustration to the situation itself.
However, the main problem with a knee immobilizer is keeping it stable when sleeping. Some sleeping positions are comfortable, while others may cause true nightmares. Nevertheless, getting a good night’s sleep with a knee brace is not impossible if you know just a few tips and tricks.
This being said, today’s article shares a complete guideline on how to sleep with a knee immobilizer and still rest as you did before the injury.
Firstly – What Is A Knee Brace (Immobilizer)?
Before moving to the tips and tricks, let’s understand better what knee braces are. So, knee immobilizers are medical equipment that keeps the knee from moving. A knee immobilizer can also be a non-functioning hinged brace made to keep the knee straight and prevent it from curving.
This type of brace is mainly made of fabric, some plastic, and the typical metal rod, which is strong enough to keep the knee straight. The medical device buckles all around the leg to maintain it in place. The rest of it will mainly stay inactive from the mid-thigh to mid-calf.
There are two types of knee immobilizers on the market:
- The non-functional ones
- The functional versions
The first one is keeping the leg completely inactive. This means you cannot move the knee. Because if you do this, it will slide down to the ankle from the movement. Most emergency doctors will recommend non-functional immobilizers.
On the other hand, hinged or functional knee immobilizers have knee braces designed to allow the leg to move. These work great for patients following a precise therapy or recovering from a sports injury. Typically, most orthopedics will recommend using a non-functional knee immobilizer right after surgery of the damage. As soon as you start recovering, you will move into the functional knee brace.
Why Sleeping With A Knee Immobilizer Is Mandatory?
Let’s make it clear. All knee injuries are harrowing, and recovery is not the easiest one. Whether it is a sports trauma, a car accident, or on the road to recovery from knee contusion, it is very likely to wear a knee brace. This virtual medical device is going to help you heal and rehabilitate.
In most cases, you will need to wear knee braces even during the night so the joint stays intact and in place. Honestly speaking, nighttime is actually a very important time to be wearing them. Why? Because when we sleep, we are not aware of our body movements. Therefore, this medical product will support the knees and provide some relief.
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but knee injuries are not the friendliest ones; on the opposite, they might take even months to recover. Furthermore, if the injury has been a serious one, you may be required to sleep with knee braces for an extended period.
It might sound like a nightmare. Yet, sleeping with knee immobilizers won’t be so terrible if you learn how to ease things a bit.
9 Comfortable Ways To Sleep With A Knee Brace On
Still haven’t figured out a way to make your sleep with a knee immobilizer more comfortable? Maybe these tricks will help you rest better after the knee injury.
1. Make sure you tighten the straps properly.
Based on the type of knee brace you were recommended, the first thing to do is adjust the straps tightly during nighttime. The main idea of this medical product is to keep the knee best immobilized and prevent any possible injuries. Most immobilizers come with adjustable straps that lock the knee in place as comfortably as possible.
As you start adjusting the straps, you have to make sure they are tight but not too rigid so they won’t affect the circulation. On the opposite, if you do not adjust the ties properly, this could lead to a knee brace that is too loose, increasing the risks of slipping and moving all while you are sleeping.
To ensure everything is okay, try to adjust the straps during the daytime when you are resting and see which size is the most beneficial for you. As bottom line, the medical system needs to prevent movement, so focus on that.
2. Use pillows, many pillows.
As in most injuries cases, elevation works excellent for recovery, and it is mandatory to encourage comfort and healing. So when you are wearing the knee immobilizer to bed, it is best to sleep on the back. This position allows you to place pillows right under the knee and elevate them above the heart. You will probably need more than one pillow, so do not hesitate to build up more cushions and keep the knee raised high enough.
If you struggle a lot with keeping your position on the back, here is what to do: place pillows firmly all along the sides and create a barrier that will keep you away from twisting or rolling the knee, causing a lot more pain.
You can order body pillows, maybe an adjustable cervical pillow or any other shape you enjoy most, and place them in critical points to prevent rolling over your stomach. You may choose any pillow model to elevate the knee. Side sleeping is an option for those not used to sleeping on their back, as long as they place a cushion between the knees. This will keep the knee and hip in the ideal alignment to avoid further pain.
Rarely will a doctor tell you to sleep only on a precise side, but you must experiment with comfort and the sides you feel most secure with. The idea here is not to move too much during the night.
3. Replace the knee brace.
Try calculating how much time you are wearing the knee immobilizers. The long hours may cause skin irritation due to sweat and dirt accumulating in one area. In time, this can lead to itchiness around the knee area and, lastly, a restless sleep.
If you prefer outdoor activities, consider wearing another knee brace at night. When wearing it outside, the immobilizer will quickly become sweaty from walking.
Hygiene is mandatory when wearing this medical support. Why? Because it is what will help you avoid skin infections. So, make sure you keep the brace all clean.
Luckily, lots of knee braces on the market have washable machine accessories. Having different braces on hand would be a great idea because it will give you the option to always have a clean one at your fingertips. Speaking of regular usage, you might need to change the knee braces every two or three days. If you feel a strange odor, it’s time to change them.
4. Adopt the cold therapy.
Sometimes, pain from the swelling caused by the knee injury or orthopedic surgery leads to white nights. The pressure starts as soon as you start tightening the braces. Before going to bed, consider putting some ice on the affected area to avoid this.
During bedtime, remove the knee immobilizer braces and put the ice pack for 20 minutes on your knee. Remove it and wait for another 10 minutes before putting the medical support again. Due to possible skin burns or frostbite, try avoiding applying ice directly on the skin and never leave the ice pack for more than 20 minutes.
You can try a cold therapy compression wrap instead, as it is adjustable and way better than the regular ice pack. Combine cold therapy with elevation, and you will help your body recover while sleeping.
5. Keep the skin moisturized.
Considering the continuous wear, the material and shape of some knee braces might start to scratch the skin in certain areas. This might lead to lesions and rashes, and incredible discomfort during the night. Due to the annoying rash, you might think of abandoning the medical support and not use it ever again.
As part of the evening routine, including pillows, ice therapy, and hygiene, add a skin moisturizer on the knee area. This will help you avoid the possible dryness, itchy skin, and brace rubbing. Make sure you have patience and let the skin absorb the moisturizer before putting the brace back on.
6. Take pain medication when in need.
After suffering surgery or a knee injury, sometimes, painkillers are unavoidable and the last chance to have a good night’s sleep. Taking suitable medication would be enough to overcome the pain for some of you.
If the pain persists even with medication and the brace, you should consult the doctor for another prescription.
7. Side of bed for the claustrophobic ones.
For some, one of the main problems with knee braces is the strange feeling of constriction. The lack of mobility and the restraint can give you a feeling of claustrophobia and heat. Consequently, sleeping is only a dream.
You can give yourself some space to breathe and sleep on the side of the bed that matches the broken knee. Relocate your partner for a short period to have the freedom of having the braced leg outside the bed coverings.
8. Use light beddings
When dealing with a severe knee injury, you should consider using light beddings to make it easier to toss and turn with a knee immobilizer’s braces. Choose light-cotton sheets or silk beddings, so changing the sleeping position is not very difficult or painful.
Maybe your knee injury is the best moment for staying fancy and purchasing some new, soft and smooth sheets.
9. Try rehabilitation exercises.
After a knee injury, the muscles around can weaken and cause extreme pain and stiffness. So if you feel your knee “stuck” when wearing a knee immobilizer, maybe you can try to perform some exercises given to you by a physical therapist or surgeon.
These simple movements will improve the circulation in the targeted area and get the muscles moving. It will also help relieve the mind, which mentally is excellent when feeling constricted in the brace.
Best Body Positions For Sleeping With A Knee Braces
The body position you choose for sleeping with knee braces should have a precise goal: keeping the leg in the correct straight place. This somehow limits the options, but you should take all the responsibility to protect the knee after surgery or injury. These are the best possible choices:
Sleeping on the back.
This is by far the best option you have, as you can be sure the leg will remain all straight. However, sometimes, it might get uncomfortable to sleep all night long on the back or have other issues like back pain.
Improve the comfort by placing pillows under the leg and elevating the injured knee. However, you should make sure the knee is perfectly straight. This position is ideal if you are dealing with post-surgical treatment. Make sure you don’t place the pillow only behind the knee.
Sleeping on your sides
This position is one of the most comfortable ones, but in this situation, you need to use a knee wedge pillow and place it between your knees. You will need to purchase a unique knee pillow to separate the legs; otherwise, one knee can cause pain to the broken one.
The best solution is to put the hurt leg on top of the healthy one to protect it from additional suffering. A knee pillow is excellent for reducing lower back pressure as well.
Sleeping in a recliner.
If the pain is hardly bearable, you can consider sleeping in a recliner because it comes with an elevated footrest. You can adjust it for increased comfort. Some recliners come with an electric footrest, making operating easier, returning them to a near flat position.
Patients that have been through knee injury claim that recliners are the best places to sleep, at least for the first days after surgery.
Also Read: Should You Sleep in a Recliner? (Pros, Cons And The Best Practices)
Sleeping on the stomach.
This position may be quite uncomfortable for those with knee issues because of the foot’s position. However, if this is the only way to do it, you should hang the feet off the bed in line with the straight leg.
Sleeping with an injured knee has never been comfortable. Keeping a knee immobilizer 24/24 ain’t make it easier. Yet, you can still have sweet dreams. All you have to do is to try these simple trips and tricks. This being said, try the technique above and find the most suited one for you.