Osteoarthritis of the knee happens when there is a reduced amount of cartilage, which inevitably results in swelling and discomfort of the knee. An osteoarthritis knee brace is designed to align the joints and reduce the level of pain. There are primarily three types of braces that fall into this category — offloader, functional and rehabilitative — and they are designed for different people with varying circumstances and situations. They are made from a variety of materials and sizes also intended to suit different needs. Understanding the differences between these braces can help a person determine which is a good fit and which should help him increase his mobility.
An offloader, or unloader, osteoarthritis knee brace is designed to alleviate pain by redistributing the weight on the knee joint. Basically, it reduces the amount of knee stress while aiding in the alignment of the knee. This is a more basic type of knee brace and is generally intended to aid in simple, everyday activities. While these can be helpful in mild cases, they are not intended for serious injuries, post surgery or any type of rehabilitation.
A functional brace is specifically designed to treat knee injuries and arthritis. Typically these are useful when there is a damaged ligament involved. Although they are not a complete replacement for a ligament, they are usually a sufficient substitution and can greatly help the functioning of the knee. Functional braces help to stabilize the knee and reduce the possibility of further injury while keeping mobility at a significantly high level.
A rehabilitative osteoarthritis knee brace is used strictly after either a surgery or serious injury. These work by limiting the range of movement and allowing the knee to adequately recover. They also control the degree that a knee can be flexed and extended throughout the healing process. A rehabilitative brace is often used in addition to crutches and can be adjusted to adapt to the level of swelling. Essentially, they are used for a short period of time and help to protect the knee from further damage while simultaneously minimizing pain.
It's always a good idea to consult a doctor before actually buying an expensive osteoarthritis knee brace. A physician will be able to fully assess the situation and decide which type of brace would be the best fit. It's also important to have a professional demonstrate the proper way to wear an osteoarthritis knee brace, because they can be somewhat complex to put on.