Before we discuss more, there are a few things you should know about bracing first.
- The braces are designed to offload one half of the joint. For this reason to consider this type of treatment you should have unicompartmental osteoarthritis - that is, arthritis affecting only the inside or outside of the knee.
- Men like braces more than women. Men see them as something cool and mechanical, a badge of honour even. Women are less happy to have something on their legs.
- Braces do not treat the worn area. All they do is redistribute your weight evenly in the knee. Unicompartmental arthritis progresses and causes pain as one side of the knee is taking all the weight while the other does very little. Sharing the load can be very beneficial.
- They are generally used by people too young to have surgery or who are unable to have surgery because of other medical conditions.
As you can see from the above, they are not for everyone. If you have arthritis in all parts of your knee you may get a little benefit from a general knee support, but it would usually not be worth spending the extra money on these more technical devices.
Not all osteoarthritis braces do what they claim either. A study by the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that only two braces actually offloaded the joint as claimed. These braces were the OAdjuster by Donjoy (pictured), and the Thruster by Bledsoe.
If you are considering knee bracing, you may as well investigate a product that has been proven to work. Even the good braces don't work for everyone but it is a safe treatment to try and some even offer a 'cooling off' period where you can get your money back if you decide it is not helping.
For those that it does help it makes a massive difference, improving quality of life and allowing them to lose weight and do quad exercises to build up the muscles that support the knee.
Definitely something to consider. For product specific information, see The Brace Shop's Arthritis category in the Knee Braces section.