4 Ways a Knee Brace Can Help Knee Arthritis  

Get more information about how knee braces can help support pain relief, healing and confidence for people with arthritis-related knee pain.

No matter what type of arthritis you have, whether it’s inflammatory (e.g., RA) or degenerative (OA), your knees will likely be affected at some point. Assistive devices, like knee braces, can help ease pain and protect mobility without drugs. Here are four ways knee braces can help with knee arthritis. 

An unloader brace can help people with medial knee arthritis. This special type of brace pushes the knee back into normal alignment, which puts more force on the outside of the knee and takes pressure off the inside of the knee, says J. Martin Leland III, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago. An unloader brace won’t cure arthritis, but it can help relieve pain and prevent the knee from giving out.  

For medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries, a hinged knee brace prescribed by your doctor provides the support needed to allow healing. Anterior collateral ligament (ACL) tears often require surgical repair, and in those cases, a drop lock hinged brace prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist may be locked to immobilize the knee or unlocked to allow the knee to bend during healing after surgery. 

When weakness or softness of cartilage under the kneecap causes pain, a neoprene brace with a cutout for the kneecap can help keep the bone in place and ease pain. It should enable you to more comfortably do exercises to strengthen the quadriceps, says Matt Holland, manager of physical therapy for the Methodist Center for Sports Medicine in Houston. Strengthening the muscles around your knees, like the quadriceps and hamstrings, may help support the knees and prevent injury. Low-impact exercises, like swimming, water aerobics and cycling on stationary bikes are best. You can find neoprene braces at pharmacies and sporting goods stores. 

Many people also report relief from knee pain with a neoprene sleeve-style brace, also available at pharmacies and sporting goods stores. Experts believe these braces may help by providing warmth and compression, which may relieve swelling. It’s possible that the main benefit is psychological, says Holland. "It gives you a feeling of support and reminds you to be more careful of that knee when you're physically active." 

Ask your doctor or physical therapist about the type of knee brace that you may benefit from the most. The right knee brace may help you heal an injury, relieve pain or provide support so you can remain active.  

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