Tearing your meniscus is amongst the most common sports injuries or general knee injuries that a person can experience. You typically hear about athletes tearing their meniscus during a game, especially when they play contact sports, which makes them more susceptible.
However, you don't have to be an athlete to sustain a meniscus tear, as anyone, young or old, can suffer the injury. Think of the meniscus as a "shock absorber" for the knee since it provides a cushion for your joints, helping them to remain stable.
Having a tear in your meniscus requires treatment, whether surgical or something less invasive. Though the brace isn't a cure-all, it can help stabilize and support your knee during recovery.
Keep reading to learn more about the best knee brace for a meniscus tear, depending on the state of your injury.
What is a Meniscus Tear?
When someone tears their meniscus, it means that they have torn the pieces of cartilage between the tibia and the femur as a result of sudden pivoting, stopping, or twisting movement.
These aren't the only movements that can cause a tear, but they are the most common reason it happens.
Usually, when someone has torn the meniscus, they report feeling a "pop" in their knee, with intense pain, sweeping joints, stiffening, and a feeling like their knee has become locked. It seems like you can't move your knee as well, as though it's giving way, and you don't have the same range of motion.
Will a Knee Brace Help with a Torn Meniscus?
Yes, but it is critical to note that knee braces for meniscus tears cannot directly heal or treat the injury.
If you have a suitable brace, it can offer protection for your knee and reduce the pressure on your meniscus. This restriction allows you to rest your knee so it can heal correctly. You can use a meniscus tear brace whether you're having surgery, have already had surgery, or trying to avoid surgery altogether.
Generally, the best knee brace for a meniscus tear will lessen the compression on your knee through joint support and offloading. Not only will this alleviate some of the pain you feel, but it will also help enhance your mobility and expedite recovery.
While the brace limits the stress your meniscus experiences, it also helps prevent the knee from getting re-injured. That means you can enjoy more physical activity during recovery and return to what you were doing sooner.
How Does it Help?
To get more specific, let's say you have surgery; you may need a knee brace afterward to restrict your knee rotation and flexion. It'll protect your meniscus and still allow you to bear weight on your knee and move it to an extent.
Braces can also help when rehabilitating the knee and engaging in physical therapy. This aspect of a treatment plan that doesn't involve surgery can be immensely beneficial in the long run.
Most often, doctors recommend a knee brace for a meniscus tear knee brace for degenerative tears and moderate acute tears, especially if the patient also has osteoarthritis.
Choosing the Best Knee Brace for a Meniscus Tear
When selecting the best knee brace for a meniscus tear, you should choose a device that allows your meniscus to recover by limiting movement, offering some compression, and adequate support.
The number one indicator as to which knee brace you should choose is the type of meniscus tear you have.
Are there any other structures in your knee that have become compromised? What stage of the recovery process are you in? All of these factors matter when browsing knee braces for meniscus tears.
There are various knee braces on the market, and your unique situation and basic standards of quality will help you pick the best choice. Remember to consult your doctor first, as not everyone who tears their meniscus needs to wear a brace.
Unloader Knee Brace
An unloader brace is molded foam and plastic with steel struts. It unloads, or transfers, the pressure from the side of one knee joint to the other side.
It also shifts pressure to several points on your thigh bone, making your knee bend opposite to the pain when you stand up. This function promotes a smoother and less painful recovery.
By redistributing the pressure from your weight to a healthier section of your knee, the unloader brace is usually the option someone picks if they have a meniscus tear because of its main properties.
While this brace is best for degenerative tears, it can work for various meniscus and ligament injuries. The optimal pain reduction and stability alone make it a top candidate.
An unloader knee brace wraps around the leg, starting at the same level as your knee. You should be fine with bending your knee with it on; it shouldn't completely restrict movement or slide down your leg.
You can also use the hinges to adjust the tightness of the brace if you need to unload the outer or inner parts of the knee. This largely depends on your meniscus injury.
Different Types of Unloader Braces
There are two different types of offloader braces: uni-compartment and tri-compartment.
The majority of unloader knee braces are uni-compartment. That means they only unload one knee compartment.
These braces push or pull the knee joint further towards one side than the other. Consequently, that reduces the pressure from the left or right side. You'll inevitably reduce pain and strain from your meniscus if it's torn and you rely more heavily on a healthier section.
One of the primary drawbacks of the offloaded brace is that you might end up overworking the healthy side of your knee if you're constantly shifting the pressure there and it isn't evenly distributed.
Tri-compartment knee braces for meniscus tears are relatively new, thanks to technological advances. They can decrease the load in all knee compartments (3) at once.
Since the hinge is spring-loaded, it functions like a shock absorber, which is perfect for safeguarding your cartilage when the meniscus has torn. It forms a barrier against bending and weight bearing.
You can boost your mobility and reduce the pain while improving the strength in your quads and preserving knee extension during rehabilitation.
Rigid Knee Braces
A rigid knee brace is similar to the hinged version because it offers optimal support for your knee if you have torn your meniscus. The exterior is like a hard shell that is virtually inflexible. It doesn't allow for detrimental lateral movement and keeps your knee stable.
This option is the best knee brace for a torn meniscus if you're nearing the end of the recovery process and re-engaging in intense physical activity such as contact sports. You'll need a strong form of protection to prevent re-injury.
The rigid knee brace should not be loose around your knee. You should have plenty of room to move around, but it shouldn't be able to slide down your leg. That means it's too loose, and you must readjust it. It also can't be so tight that it feels like restricting blood flow or causing red marks on your skin after extended use.
Hinged Knee Braces
With a hinged knee brace, you enjoy a high level of support which helps you to control instability at the sides and the front of the knee. If by chance, you have a meniscus that's torn on both sides, this brace will provide optimal support.
Hinged knee braces prevent lateral knee movements, which can be potentially harmful to the knee. They can also be rigid or soft while providing sufficient levels of compression, which helps with the healing of the meniscus.
If you are someone who has recovered from a meniscus tear, a hinged knee brace happens to be the best knee brace. Additionally, it's an ideal brace for people with ligament injuries, such as a medial collateral ligament (MCL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), or anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
As mentioned previously, hinged braces can be either rigid or soft, usually offering a form of compression. Interestingly, the severity of your injury will dictate whether you use a rigid or soft-hinged brace.
Ideally, a hinged knee brace should fit nicely around your knees, but it shouldn't be too loose or tight. The hinge mechanism should work without forcing it into place, and the straps should make you feel secure and comfortable.
The Soft Knee Brace (No Hinge)
A soft knee brace provides moderate support for knees suffering from meniscus tears. The brace gives the wearer more range of motion and flexibility, making it ideal for people in the recovery stage of their injury process; such people are gentle exercise and basic daily activities.
A soft knee brace is ideal for a meniscus tear when you're trying to strengthen the knee during rehabilitation.
As is the case with every brace, no brace should be too loose or too tight. Fortunately, most soft knee braces are equipped with straps that can be adjusted precisely to your desired compression and support level.
Knee Compression Sleeves
Even though compression sleeves don't have the protection and strong support of a more robust brace, they provide compression therapy and redistribute weight; as you can imagine, this helps prevent swelling and reduce pain.
If you've suffered a torn meniscus and you also suffer from arthritic knees or some form of a degenerative condition, compression sleeves are typically the best knee brace.
Also, they are an excellent option for an athlete at the end of their rehabilitation process and need compression therapy to promote fast healing and reduced pain.
Difference Between a Knee Brace and a Knee Sleeve?
- Knee braces typically offer some super or protection; conversely, sleeves do not. Therefore, a sleeve is not a good option if you have injured knee ligaments in conjunction with a meniscus tear because there's no support or stability for your knee.
- We recommend knee braces with meniscus tears or osteoarthritis because they reduce stress on the knees, and knee sleeves do not.
- Knee braces can be used for sports injuries to provide stability and protection while exercising; they are designed to provide gentle protection.
- Knee braces are bulkier than knee sleeves and come in multiple materials like nylon, neoprene, hard plastic, and more. The knee sleeve is soft and doesn't feel bulky, but it also doesn't offer nearly the same level of support and protection for the knee.
How To Choose The Best Knee Brace For A Torn Meniscus
You'll need to consider various factors if you're buying a knee brace for yourself. Here are the main priorities:
You'll find various types of knee braces at your disposal. Some are wrap-around, closed or open patella, hinged, strapped, a compression sleeve, and so on. As mentioned, your brace type will vary if you don't require surgery or already had surgery and if it was a mild or severe tear. Always consult with your doctor first.
This factor is straightforward: the brace must fit perfectly. If it's too tight or loose, you risk exacerbating the injury due to inadequate support for the knee.
The best knee brace for a torn meniscus will undoubtedly support the cartilage and tendons and stabilize the patella. If you have a mild injury, then getting a brace with straps will allow you more movement, and you'll be able to adjust it to be tighter on days when it's aching and you need more support, and vice versa.
Hinged braces are always safer when you have a severe tear and need maximum support. The brace should have a durable and comfortable material lining the inside and must grip the knee securely.
Knee braces can come in various sizes to accommodate different body frames. Nonetheless, some universal options come with adjustable straps so that you can make sure it fits securely and to your liking.
It should cover the correct area of your knee snugly but not too tightly. If your doctor measured your knee, check the manufacturer's measurements before you purchase.
A high price doesn't guarantee the quality or that it's the best brace for your knee. There are plenty of excellent knee braces that are also affordable.
Stabilizing your knee and reducing pain is of the utmost importance, so you'll have to consider the price after you've determined that the brace is comfortable and addresses the main goals of the recovery process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are quick answers to common inquiries regarding knee braces for a meniscus tear:
How long do you wear a knee brace for a torn meniscus?
Everyone that tears their meniscus doesn't have to wear a brace, but many do. If prescribed a knee brace, you may have to keep it on for at least six weeks, maybe longer.
In the beginning, crutches may be required until your knee strengthens. Always follow the physical therapist or doctor's instructions regarding the injury.
Can I wear a knee brace all day?
You can wear a knee brace for a full 24 hours unless your doctor has advised against doing so; in any case, you should always follow their instructions, or you risk worsening your condition.
Should you sleep with your knee brace on?
It's fine to sleep with your knee brace on if you're not too uncomfortable. It can help you avoid further damage to knee joints, and your knee will remain stable. If your doctor doesn't give you a choice, consider placing cushions around your knee to be more comfortable.
Will a knee brace replace rehab?
A meniscus tear brace can't replace rehabilitation as it doesn't include the exercises and supplementary treatment needed to recover fully. You must do the assigned exercises or physical therapy daily, with or without the brace.
For younger individuals, a torn meniscus usually occurs from trauma due to recreational activities and sports, including intense twisting and pivoting. For older adults, it's not uncommon that the degradation of the meniscus is age-related.
The pain might be debilitating, and athletes often find themselves unable to participate in sports for a few weeks or months. It's crucial to address the problem as soon as possible to avoid further complications such as a muscle imbalance, re-injury, or other weakness in the knee.
The best knee brace for a torn meniscus depends on your injury. The brace itself is an excellent non-surgical or post-op treatment that provides extra stability. Ensure that you select the best knee brace based on your specific condition.