Updated on 2017-10-01 – The purpose of a knee brace is to protect your knee from being injured when you are playing sports and doing other types of physical activity such as working around the house, walking the dog, etc. They can also offer protection if you have already injured your knee or have gone through some type of knee surgery. The problem is that there are so many different knee braces out there, it’s hard to know what are the best type of knee brace for your situation. That’s where this post comes in. We hope that we can shed some light as to the different types you can choose from and why/when you would use each one.
Types of Knee Braces
There are several types of knee braces that you can get depending on your injury or other support goals.
Technically this one is not a brace; however it is often referred as one. They are normally made of flexible material such as neoprene and are mainly used to support your knees during general daily activities and also to prevent previous minor injuries from re-occurring. Knee sleeves are pulled up over your knee, the same way you put on pants. They offer support and compression for the knee in a simple and cheap fashion. They can be quite helpful the first few days after a minor knee injury, taking some of the strain off the joint and giving you a bit of support. Long term, they can help you out by giving extra support during your normal activities. These are used for basic protection and perfect for any mild sprain, knee pain, weakness, swelling, or mild arthritis.
They work well to retain heat, which can increase circulation to the joint. These are not meant for modern to severe cases of pain or instability. There are three categories into which knee sleeves are placed. First is the open patella knee sleeve which has a hole in the front to reduce pressure on your kneecap. Second is the closed sleeve which is better at heat retention. Third has built in stabilizers on each side to provide additional lateral support. Click here for great deals on knee sleeves at Amazon.
Hinged knee braces
Hinged knee braces can be a great option if you want to reduce instability and knee pain. They give you a bit more protection and stability compared to simple sleeves. Expounding upon the side stabilizer idea, these braces work hard to prevent you from hyper-extending your knee. These types of braces typically consist of hinges, bars and straps and are generally used to protect the knee from injury during contact sports (e.g.: football, basketball, etc.), while still providing mobility. Also known as prophylactic knee braces. They are invaluable for people who have instability, weakness, cartilage problems, or arthritis. You can wear them after knee surgery to help reduce pain and keep you going through daily activities. Some of them can be locked at different extensions or flexion so you have control over how much the knee bends or straightens.
This is a particularly useful feature for anyone who is in the early stages of recovery from knee surgery or a severe injury. Don’t write them off for regular use though; you can wear a hinged knee brace to help you maximize protection during high demand activities like sports. Click here for great deals on hinged knee braces at Amazon.
Functional knee braces
Also known as ligament knee braces. The purpose of this type of brace is to reduce knee instability after an injury to a ligament. They can also lower the risk of additional injuries during physical activities. They come in various forms, such as hinge-post-strap or hinge-post-shell. They are often recommended for people who have already injured themselves and want to continue to play sports. Also recommended for physical activities that require a lot of jumping, pivoting and rapid direction changes. Because functional knee braces are meant to stabilize your knee during rotational forces, they are useful in conjunction with other treatment or rehabilitation for ligament knee injuries. Click here for great deals on ligament knee braces at Amazon.
Post Op Knee Braces
Post-op rehabilitation is an important period during which you need to minimize any mobilization for the knee. Without taking such measures, the chances of full recovery from knee surgery are reduced. Designed to limit the movement of the knee during the healing process following an injury and/or surgery. They typically consist of a foam liner or shell that surrounds the thigh, knee and calf, with full-length steel bars on both sides with hinges at the knee level. They keep you comfortable while limiting the movement in your knee. They should also help you to participate in your rehabilitation program for improved flexibility and strength without pushing things too far. Click here for great deals on post op knee braces at Amazon.
Arthritis Knee Braces
Arthritis knee braces are meant to help relieve pain and swelling associated with the condition. This is a very common problem which is why the braces are made to reduce the pressure by supporting the knee. There are three distinct styles of arthritis knee braces. First is the general arthritis knee supports which give your knee compression and warmth to reduce inflammation. These are perfect for mild cases. Second is advanced support braces which work well for mild to moderate cases and provide support to the ligaments. Third are unloader knee braces, which are generally recommended for people suffering from knee arthritis or osteoarthritis. They are designed to take the load (stress) from the knee and redirect it to the thigh bone to provide relief. Unloader knee braces are meant to reduce the weight that goes through different parts of your knee by changing the angle of your knee joint. They are typically made of formed plastic, foam and steel. There are special hinges which redistribute the weight to parts of the knee which are stronger.
Different unloader braces are designed for different severities of arthritis ranging from milk to moderate to severe. These work best when one only side of your knee is affected. Some doctors may recommend this type of brace to people preparing for knee replacement surgery. Arthritis knee sleeves are also available for those suffering from minor cases of OA. Click here for great deals on arthritis knee braces at Amazon.
Magnetic Knee Braces
A magnetic knee brace supports your knee and are designed with strategically placed magnets located around the joint. The purpose of magnets is to reduce pain around the knee cap in particular. It is believed that the magnetic fields attract and repel charged particles in your blood which is what increases blood flow. Doing so causes blood vessels to widen, accelerating the healing process and aiding in inflammation. Magnetic fields work to trigger the nervous system which decreases the pain signals being sent to the brain.
Magnetic knee treatments have been shown to be a reliable treatment for conditions where there is persistent discomfort as well as inflammation of the knee. Magnetic knee supports are available in bands, sleeves & regular braces. Moreover, it is believed that magnetic therapy improves sleep quality and reduces stress, two things which can help in overall recovery regardless of the injury. Magnetic knee supports are available in bands, sleeves & regular braces. Click here for great deals on magnetic knee braces at Amazon.
These bands/straps are placed under the kneecap and their main purpose is to provide compression on the patellar tendon in order to reduce pain and discomfort, as well as stabilize the kneecap and improve its tracking. Knee bands (also called patella straps) can be used for a variety of minor to moderate knee problems, generally related to patellar (kneecap). Such as, chrondomalacia patella, jumper’s knee, patellar tendonitis & more. Knee bands are used for many problems, and you can choose between a single strap design which is essentially one-size-fits-all, a double strap design, or a magnetic design. For more information on knee bands, refer to our post “Knee Bands – What Are They And Do They Actually Work?“. Click to see low prices on knee bands at Amazon.
Knee Cold Therapy Wraps
Although these are not considered “knee braces”, we did want to introduce them since they play a crucial part in dealing with knee pain and technically fall into the category of devices that “support the knee”. Knee cold therapy wraps come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. General purposes cold knee wraps are simple wraps where you insert ice or cold packs into a band or wrap, which is then placed on the knee or surrounding area. These are designed to dull the nerve endings to reduce knee pain. Although they do not protect or stabilize your knee injury, they do help in the recovery process.
Then you have the more advanced knee cold therapy wraps (such as the SimplyJnJ example depicted here), which combines cold therapy and compression therapy for maximum efficiency. The cold therapy aspect reduces blood flow to the injured area, which reduces inflammation and swelling, while the compression aspect helps to prevent additional swelling by applying pressure to the surrounding tissues. Great option if you are about to undergo knee surgery. Click here for different knee cold therapy wraps on sale at Amazon, or here for the SimplyJnJ wrap see above.
We hope that you found this post useful and that you are now aware of the different types of knee braces available to you, depending on your situation. If you still have questions, feel free to use the comment form below and leave us a question. Until next time.
Updated on 2017-10-01 – General updates and reformatting + added more information to each section + added a section on cold therapy wraps.
Updated on 2016-11-20 – Added a section on knee bands and magnetic knee braces.
Important Note: You should always consult a doctor to determine the best knee brace solution to support your particular situation.
Please go to our SHOP for a list of available knee braces and other products.
October 7, 2017
I noticed that the first knee sleeve has straps on it… first time I’ve seen that on a knee sleeve. Why would you need those?
October 8, 2017
Hi John. Great question. Some people prefer to have a tighter fit for extra compression or to make sure the sleeve doesn’t slip depending on the type of activity they are doing. In this case (SimplyJnJ’ knee sleeve), the straps are removable so you can choose to wear them or not.