Offloading Knee Brace: What Is It and When to Use It

A man putting on knee brace
A knee brace can offer pain relief for patients with arthritis or an acute knee injury. Learn more from Reflex Knee Specialists.

Offloading Knee Brace: What Is It and When to Use It

What is the Offloading Knee Brace?

When it comes to addressing knee pain, surgery can be invasive and requires extensive recovery time. There are several conservative treatments that can be tried prior to surgery to reduce knee pain and improve quality of life. One such treatment is to wear an offloading knee brace to help reduce pain and increase activity levels. At Reflex Knee Specialists, we’re dedicated to providing effective non-surgical treatment options for knee pain. Here, we answer some commonly asked questions about using an offloading knee brace.

What Is an Offloading Knee Brace?

An offloading knee brace is a medical device that supports the knee joint and provides pain relief by reducing the force transmitted across the damaged part of the joint. Offloading knee braces are available over the counter and as a prescription. Over-the-counter braces are available at pharmacies and medical device stores and typically come in a few different standard sizes. Prescription offloading knee braces are more expensive, but they are custom fitted to a patient’s measurements.

What Conditions Benefit from Knee Bracing?

There are many different types of knee braces, from a simple fabric sleeve to a custom brace that improves alignment and reduces pain. An offloading knee brace is often used to treat osteoarthritis (OA). Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is the leading cause of knee pain worldwide.

By definition, osteoarthritis is due to chronic inflammation inside the joint.  In the presence of this inflammation, the cartilage that cushions the joints begins to destabilize and break down. This causes joint additional inflammation, creating a vicious cycle of inflammation and tissue damage. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and a general sense of instability. As more and more cartilage wears away, pressure to the underlying bones increases, causing painful bone spurs (osteophytes) to develop. Knee bracing can provide pain relief and help reduce additional wear and tear on the joint. In some cases, an offloading knee brace may be recommended for patients with ligament tears or meniscal injuries.

How Does an Offloading Knee Brace Help?

Osteoarthritis (OA) causes irreversible structural damage to the joint which can lead to poor alignment and dysfunctional joint mechanics. This dysfunction can affect a person’s posture and gait, leading to more joint pain. An offloading knee brace realigns and repositions the knee joint so that the leg moves correctly.

By shifting some of a patient’s weight off the portion of the joint with tissue damage, a knee brace can help reduce the pain and swelling associated with OA. For patients who have experienced their knee buckling or giving out, wearing a brace can help them feel more confident when walking and exercising.

How to Wear an Offloading Knee Brace

If your provider recommended an offloading knee brace, he or she will help you find the best brace for your particular condition and anatomy. Our team of knee specialists will show you how to put it on and take it off. Because bracing changes the alignment of your knee, you’ll likely need to start slow and gradually build up to wearing the brace for longer periods. At Reflex Knee Specialists, our doctors partner with physical therapists to create a specific bracing schedule for each patient who uses an offloading knee brace.

Knee bracing is sometimes recommended in combination with knee-focused physical therapy to improve joint mobility and strengthen leg muscles. If you have minor arthritis, you may be able to stop wearing a brace once your muscles have become strong enough to stabilize the knee joint. If you have advanced OA, your doctor may recommend that you continue wearing a knee brace for a longer period. Any time you are performing an activity that stresses the knee for more than 30 minutes, you should wear your brace.

Schedule an Appointment with Reflex Knee Specialists

The providers at Reflex Knee Specialists have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating patients with arthritis and other conditions that affect the knee joint. We offer each patient a comprehensive knee evaluation and, if one is needed, will help you find the right knee brace to reduce your pain and get you back to doing the activities you love. Reflex Knee Specialists has locations in Portland, Oregon; Bellevue, Washington; and Tempe, Arizona. To learn more and discuss your bracing options, call us at 503-719-6783 or contact us today.

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