How do I Choose the Best Osteoarthritis Knee Brace?

Nick Mann

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.

A diagram of the knee.
A diagram of the knee.

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.

There are three primary types of braces for a osteoarthritic knee, and a physician can recommend the best one to use.
There are three primary types of braces for a osteoarthritic knee, and a physician can recommend the best one to use.

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.

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Discussion Comments


I think a stabilizer knee brace that reduces how much the knee can bend is the best option for those with painful osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage and the materials between them wear out causing the bones to grind on one another during movement. This is where a lot of the inflammation and pain comes from.

Of course, the underlying condition needs to be treated. But wearing the right knee brace for some time can provide some relief from symptoms. At least, it will prevent it from worsening rapidly.


@ddljohn-- The brand isn't that important although it's best to buy from a company who has been in this business for some time. At the end of the day though, whether a product works for someone or not relies on various different factors. I urge you to read customer reviews which will give you a good idea about the quality of the product and how satisfied customers are with it.

The type of brace that most people use during activity is actually more like a slip. An actual brace has hinges usually made of sturdy plastic that limit movement. If you need to limit movement to avoid injury or heal from a mild strain for example, this type of brace will work. But for support during activity, the product needs to be non-limiting in movement. So a leg slip with support at the knee is best.


Which is the best knee brace for activity for someone with mild osteoarthritis? I'm not looking for anything rehabilitative. I just need something to provide some extra support when walking and help reduce pain and discomfort if possible. Is there a specific brand I should look at?

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