A knee brace for arthritis provides support that may reduce kneecap pain and improve a person’s mobility and confidence. A brace may also keep joints in alignment and allow ligaments to heal after surgery.
That information comes from the Arthritis Foundation (AF).
Knee damage can occur with osteoarthritis because the condition may result in erosion of the cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones. It can also occur with rheumatoid arthritis, which affects the lining of the joints. Both conditions can cause pain, weakness, and impaired function.
This article discusses the effectiveness of knee braces for people with arthritis, and looks at the different types of braces.
A knee brace is an orthosis, which is a device that fits to a person’s body with the aim of helping to do one of several things, depending on a person’s condition:
- correct a deformity
- control alignment
- protect an injury from further damage
A knee brace may be helpful for arthritis, although there are not extensive studies on this topic. Those that exist found the benefits of a knee brace may be limited. Several of the studies are described below.
Low-grade evidence of benefits
Unproven benefit of functional braces after knee surgery
Possible benefits of sleeve braces
The goal of a
In addition, the 12 studies suggested that the sleeves could help a person with injured knees function better. However, the remaining eight studies did not show any significant benefits.
The authors concluded that more studies are needed on effectiveness of knee sleeves.
Study advised more professional oversight of knee braces
The authors recommended that before a person uses a brace, a healthcare professional should check it for suitability. They also mentioned the need for educating people in the use of braces and encouraging them to contact a physical therapist if their brace needs an adjustment.
Traditional types of knee braces include:
- Functional: For protection and support following an injury
- Rehabilitative: To protect motion after either surgery or an injury
- Patellofemoral: To keep the kneecap in correct alignment and reduce knee pain.
- Prophylactic: To reduce or prevent knee injuries in some sports
However, not all types of braces may be effective or suitable for a person with knee osteoarthritis.
According to a
These include a new type of functional knee brace, which may help strengthen muscles, improve a person’s mobility, and reduce pain.
Another option is ambulating extension deficit/flexion contracture rehabilitative functional bracing. A person can use this new type of brace in place of a brace typically used during the night.
The study concluded that the new braces could be used in combination with physical therapy for a person who had knee surgery for osteoarthritis, and could help with the outcome of the treatment and person’s recovery.
The AF notes that common knee braces include the unloader, hinged, neoprene with a cutout for the knee cap, and neoprene sleeve. Here is more detail on each:
A doctor may recommend an unloader brace for a person with arthritis that affects the part of the knee closest to the body’s midline. The brace pushes the knee into correct position, which takes pressure off the inside of the joint and puts more pressure on the outside of the joint.
The unloader has two benefits: relieving pain and preventing the knee from giving out.
Hinged knee brace
A doctor may advise using a hinged knee brace for individuals who have either of two types of ligament injuries.
One is an injury to the medial collateral ligament. This is the ligament on the side of the knee closest to the body’s midline. A hinged knee brace gives support, which permits the joint to heal.
The other is an injury to the interior collateral ligament. This is the ligament on the front of the knee. When the ligament tears, a doctor surgically repairs it. Afterward, a drop lock hinged brace immobilizes the knee in the locked position. It also supports the knee during bending when in the unlocked position.
Neoprene brace with a cutout for the knee cap
Doctors recommend this type of brace for a person with soft or weak cartilage under the knee that causes pain. It relieves discomfort and helps keep the knee in the normal position.
In addition, it can enable someone to perform exercises that strengthen the quadriceps, the muscles on the front of the thigh. Strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee helps prevent injuries. An individual may purchase these braces from sporting goods stores, pharmacies, or online.
This type of brace provides compression and warmth, which helps reduce swelling. It gives a person confidence and a feeling of support when doing activities that involve the knee joint. The brace may also serve as a reminder to be careful with the knee during physical activity. It is available from sporting goods stores, pharmacies, or online.
Research on the effectiveness of knee braces for people with arthritis is inconclusive, although the AF suggests the devices can be beneficial.
If people wish to use a knee brace for arthritis, it is best to ask their doctor for a specific recommendation. A brace may reduce pain and provide support in walking and exercising, but there is not a one-size-fits-all type that helps everyone.