What knee brace is the best for pain?

What brace is the best for knee pain?

The best type of brace for knee pain depends on what is causing your knee pain. Braces don’t work for all conditions, and wearing the wrong type of brace could just make your knee pain worse. Some braces wrap around the whole knee, while others are just a strap. Some are expensive, some are cheap, some are light, and some are heavy. Which one should you get for your knee pain? The better question is should you even buy a knee brace for your knee pain? As a practicing orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs, I only recommend knee braces for certain conditions. 

What does a knee brace actually do?

The main point of a knee brace is to prevent knee motion in some way, or alter your biomechanics through bracing. The idea is that by adding extra support, you can improve biomechanics, lessen pain, and lower the chance of injury. Most people look for knee braces because their knees hurt, but there are many different types which I will elaborate on below.

Knee brace for arthritis

The most common type of knee brace for arthritis is called the medial unloading knee brace (or valgus knee brace). This is only for those with knee arthritis with valgus knees (also known as bowed legs). If you have varus knees with arthritis (knock knees), then this brace will make your pain worse! The idea behind this brace is that those with valgus knee arthritis (bowed legs) will have most of the arthritis on the inside of their knee. The valgus unloader brace is supposed to shift some of the weight to the outside of the knee where the arthritis isn’t as bad. So does it work? Despite multiple studies, there is no conclusive evidence that these knee braces really work. 

Knee brace for the patella (kneecap)

You probably have seen these braces before, they are the ones with a hole in the front middle for your kneecap. The idea is that if you have pain under your kneecap (also called patellar chondromalacia), this brace can stabilize your kneecap and help with pain. One issue is that by forcibly changing the biomechanics of your kneecap, the patellar stabilization brace can actually cause more pain. Systematic reviews found insufficient evidence to recommend these for long term use.

Knee strap for patellar tendonitis

If your knee pain is not under your kneecap, but on your patellar tendon, then you may have patellar tendonitis. The brace used here is a strap that wraps around your patellar tendon and eases the tension. There is evidence to support that using a patellar tendon strap for patellar tendonitis can help with knee pain.

Knee braces for injuries

There is also a whole host of other knee braces that are used. In my orthopedic practice in Colorado Springs, sometimes I recommend a brace called a knee immobilizer which keeps the knee perfectly straight for those that have had surgery on their knee, or who have a stable patellar fracture. There are also braces for ACL injuries, PCL injuries, MCL injuries… I would leave it up to your orthopedic doctor to prescribe you one of these braces because they are specific to certain injuries.

I hope I was able to answer your questions about what brace is the best for knee pain. If you still have any questions or want to schedule an in person or virtual consult, please feel free to contact me.

-Written by Dr. Daniel Paull

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