A knee sleeve provides support but does not function in the same way as a knee brace. Knee braces are designed and used to protect a previous injury from further damage. Knee sleeves are designed to protect the knee from future injury or potential damage. This protection is especially important for knees put under great daily pressure (running, jumping, weightlifting).
Knee sleeves also add valuable compression that increases blood flow and reduces pain, not only during but also after a workout. The reason this compression aspect is so important is that a compressed knee encourages blood flow through the blood vessels of the knee which helps with recovery. Simply put, using a knee sleeve results in less pain and swelling during and after a workout.
There is a difference to understand between knee braces and knee sleeves. The protective cushioning of the knee brace is meant to protect the anterior knee and patella, while the knee sleeve does not provide the same ligamentous support. Therefore, if you have an unstable knee and are using a knee sleeve to fix or stabilize the knee, it will not be enough.
Knee sleeves do not need to be worn for all weightlifting exercises. If the knee is not involved as a primary lifting source, they are not necessary. They do however provide the support necessary for performing squats. Any time the knee is left weak or vulnerable, it is at great risk for long-term damage.
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