Thinking about shopping for an unloader knee brace? With the many options available, it’s confusing to find the best unloader knee brace that suits your condition. We break down the most critical factors you need to consider and the types of unloader knee braces worth buying.
How a Knee Brace Works
An unloader knee brace is a form of knee brace that helps lower knee osteoarthritis pain. The knee brace also provides stability and support while helping to relieve pain on one side of the knee.
As the name suggests, an unloader knee brace “unloads” pressure experienced from one side and transfers it to the other. Essentially, this is how an unloader knee brace works - it shifts the stress on one knee to the healthier side.
The knee joint carries a lot of weight. When your knee structures become dislocated or damaged, your knee can get injured because of an underlying condition or as a result of an activity you engaged in.
Knee braces are different; some offer knee support, whereas others help prevent further damage to the knees. Patients using knee braces benefit significantly as they can avoid injuries and stabilize pain.
Types of Unloader Knee Brace
Knowing the right unloader knee brace for you requires understanding the different types of these knee braces. It’s worth noting that osteoarthritis can affect varying parts of the knees, including:
- The inner (medial) compartment
- The outer (lateral) compartment
- The area beneath the kneecap (patellofemoral compartment)
Uni-Compartmental Unloader Knee Brace
Traditionally, unloader knee braces helped to unload weight from one area of the knee, hence the name “uni-compartmental” knee brace. When using this type of knee brace, weight offloads from either the lateral or medial compartment. The area with the most damage or injury is where weight offloads and shifts to another area.
Shifting weight from the site of injury, pain, or inflammation helps lower pain and friction between bones.
Patients with unilateral arthritis or unilateral meniscus tears use unilateral unloader braces.
Multi-Compartmental Unloader Knee Braces
Multi-compartmental unloader knee braces help a lot, especially when arthritis affects more than a single compartment of the knee. This knee brace is also called a tri-compartment unloader knee. Unlike the conventional uni-compartmental unloader knee, it offloads pressure from all three pressure points of your knee. With less strain and stress on your knees, you’re more likely to feel less pain, which promotes faster recovery.
Choosing the Right Unloader Knee Brace
If you haven’t used a knee brace before, it can be confusing to pick the type that suits you. There are plenty of features to consider, making the selection process cumbersome. When choosing from a variety, it’s vital to consider your type of osteoarthritis. After all, you want to use a product that works for you.
Here’s a look at the essential features to consider.
The only way to ensure you benefit from an unloader knee brace is to buy the right size.
Measure the knee brace to ensure it’s the correct size for your knee. When working with a physician to determine the best size for you, test the knee brace by standing up straight. The circumference above and below your knees needs to be accurately measured. If you measure your knees, confirm that your leg is straight even if you can’t stand.
It’s worth noting that you can gain muscle mass while exercising. This means your thigh size could fluctuate. Hence, the knee brace should be adjustable to create space in case you gain muscle mass. Customizable straps and interchangeable padding will also help to guarantee the knee brace fits well.
At Brace Direct, we understand the importance of ensuring the perfect knee brace for your condition. Therefore, we strive to offer customizable braces for your needs.
Knee Joint Alignment
Osteoarthritis can sometimes occur because of a malaligned knee joint. Such malalignment can result from a valgus deformity or varus deformity. Unloader knee braces are helpful here since they can help to correct such issues by repositioning the knee joint.
This works using a tension strapping system, where the unloader brace pulls one side of the knee upward while putting downward pressure on the other. The knee joint alignment feature corrects the knee, leading to equal pressure on the cartilage.
The functional stabilization of the unloader knee brace is another crucial consideration. While most knee braces will offer this feature, double-check is still important.
The functional stabilization feature helps eliminate the instability you may experience while walking down or going upstairs. Instability here could result from misaligned joints or weaknesses of specific muscles. When this happens, the knee tends to collapse inwards (valgus) or outwards (varus).
The best knee brace should have a rigid carbon fiber frame. With this feature, you can be confident that the brace offers the much-required support that prevents the knee joint from collapsing.
Partial Pressure Relief
Essentially, an unloader knee brace should serve its purpose - to unload pressure from your inflamed knee joint. Increased pressure on an inflamed knee joint can cause pain and discomfort. The right knee brace that suits your condition should help to realign your joints, taking pressure off the inflamed areas.
This is an important consideration, especially for individuals with unicompartmental osteoarthritis in the medial or lateral tibiofemoral compartment.
Total Pressure Relief
Depending on your condition, the unloader knee brace you choose should have a tricompartmental offloading feature. A tricompartmental unloader knee brace simultaneously unloads pressure from three pressure points, which leads to less pain and a decreased likelihood of the disease progressing.
Modern bracing technology strives to help patients with uni-compartmental osteoarthritis since it efficiently redistributes pressure within the knee. Arguably, this would make you feel like you’ve lost significant body weight.
Increased Knee Strength
If you have difficulty standing up or getting in and out of chairs, you should consider whether the unloader knee brace will strengthen your knee area. While the knee brace doesn’t fix the strength issue, its spring hinge technology should help you find it easy to sit down or stand up.
Level of Protection
You should also settle for the right knee brace based on its protection level. Usually, the levels of protection range from 1 to 3+. Level 1 knee brace offers the least support. However, it’s pretty flexible and is often recommended for mild to moderate pain relief.
Level 2 knee brace is stronger than Level 1 and offers some support for mild pain associated with tendonitis and ligament instabilities. Knee straps and wraparound braces are good examples of this type of knee brace.
On the other hand, a Level 3 brace provides more support. A good example here is a hinged knee brace. While it’s stronger than other types, it limits movement since it’s heavier. This brace is ideal for individuals recovering from knee surgery, where limited movement is crucial to prevent re-injury.
Benefits of Using Unloader Knee Brace
Patients have varying knee conditions. The benefits of using an unloader knee brace vary depending on the condition. However, the use of an unloader knee brace should provide several benefits.
For starters, long-term use will help patients manage their pain symptoms. Pain around the knee often leads to discomfort and can affect one’s quality of life. Therefore, using an unloader knee brace to manage pain and other related symptoms can help to make life bearable.
An unloader knee brace can also help in delaying or preventing knee surgery. If you can recover from a specific knee condition, then it’s better than undergoing surgery. The right knee brace can prevent your condition from worsening, thus reducing the likelihood of revision surgery in the future.
If you’re suffering from unicompartmental osteoarthritis, an unloader knee brace is a cost-effective approach to relieve pain and promote faster healing.
More importantly, an unloader knee brace promotes an active lifestyle. Just because you feel pain in your knees doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in physical activities. An active lifestyle guarantees that you can manage weight and enhance the quality of your life. You should note that all these benefits come with no side effects.
Which Unloader Knee Brace is Right for You?
The right unloader knee brace that suits you helps you relieve knee pain, provide comfort, and prevent the condition from worsening. Recommended options you should consider include the following:
- Brace Direct Osteoarthritis Unloader Knee Brace
The Brace Direct Osteoarthritis Unloader Knee Brace (left) comes highly recommended due to its unmatched features. It features a lightweight and breathable material, making it a great choice since you can use it with everyday activities. The product’s design allows for maximum comfort, meaning you don’t have to worry about skin irritations or sensitivity.
This unloader knee brace is also designed to help with knee injuries and prevents such injuries from reoccurring. It stabilizes care for patients with medial or lateral osteoarthritis of the knee. The good thing about the Brace Direct Osteoarthritis Unloader Knee Brace is that experienced individuals will help you to find the best fit for your knee.
- Brace Direct OA Unloader Knee Brace
The Brace Direct OA Unloader Knee Brace from Brace Direct is another knee brace that serves its purpose. This OA Unloader Knee Brace is the perfect brace to help reduce pressure on the knee by unloading stress on inflamed or injured joints. This brace suits you if you want to recover from medial and lateral chronic knee osteoarthritis and instability.
OA Unloader Knee Brace also features an adjustable design. It comes with a Range of Motion Control features, which help in stops and side stabilization. The product features a hinge that keeps the knee aligned in position for maximum comfort and pain-free mobility.
- OA Unloader Plus Heated Knee Massager
The OA Unloader Plus Heated Knee Massager features an adjustable design and powerful heated acupressure massage therapy. This product stands out with its acupressure massage feature, healing the affected areas. Ideally, this helps relieve discomfort and pain quickly and speed up recovery. The unloader knee brace allows for a perfect fit due to its ergonomic design.
It’s specifically created to target knee pain and swelling resulting from osteoarthritis, sports injury, patella injuries, knee replacement, ACL injuries, and more.
Do You Need an Unloader Knee Brace?
Most patients will benefit from wearing unloader knee braces since they offer additional support, pain relief, and stability to knee joints. Before you choose any of the recommended unloader knee braces in this guide, it’s important to consult with your doctor. Inform your doctor about your knee symptoms, and they will help you settle for the right knee brace.
Brace Direct offers a range of options for you to choose from, depending on your diagnosis.
A knee brace doesn’t have to be expensive; Brace Direct strives to ensure that money doesn’t deter you from enjoying the perks of knee braces. You can comfortably pay for your knee brace by taking advantage of an interest-free installment option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still not sure what the right choice is for you? This will help.
How long should you wear an unloader knee brace?
The time to wear an unloader knee brace depends on your condition. You can use the knee brace to help you delay the need for surgery and help you with pain management. Confirm with your doctor your goals and how you intend to use the unloader knee brace.
How tight should an unloader knee brace be?
The unloader knee brace is too tight if you can’t slide two fingers under the strap. For a comfortable fit, loosen the strap and perform this test again. The brace is too loose if your two fingers can fit and have room to wiggle around a third finger. Consider tightening the knee brace for the right fit.9
Is it okay to wear a knee brace while sitting?
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to wear a knee brace while sitting or lying down. However, removing the brace before swimming or showering is recommended to prevent it from getting wet. Talk to your doctor about how long your knee can stay without support from a knee brace.
When should you wear an unloader knee brace?
Wear your unloader knee brace to help you prevent or delay knee surgery. Speak to your doctor about your condition, as they will help you to choose the best knee brace for your needs.