Did you know that 43% of people will get knee osteoarthritis in their lifetime? If you’re among the many, you know how it can negatively affect your quality of life. Fortunately, a good knee brace can relieve symptoms and even slow the condition’s progression. So, without further ado, here are the best knee braces for osteoarthritis.
An overview of knee osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that often affects the knees. As we age, the smooth cartilage disks cushioning the end of the tibia and the start of the fibula wear down, becoming thin and rough. In most cases, this wear and tear will affect one side of the joint more. With osteoarthritis, common symptoms include:
- Pain that gets worse after a long period of rest or a long period of movement, like going on a hike
- Stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings
- Affected movement. Even without significant joint pain, osteoarthritis can affect how you use the knee as it damages your sense of proprioception (your ‘awareness’ of how you move and position your knees and legs).
Initially, damage to your cartilage will be minimal, so you’ll only get these symptoms occasionally and can still go about your life as usual with minimal intervention. But as the condition progresses, you’ll find it difficult to walk even short distances. You may also see a change in your knee shape as one side of the cartilage keeps wearing away.
What’s the best knee brace for Osteoarthritis?
The best osteoarthritis knee brace for you depends on your symptoms. Generally, softer compression braces are best if you’re still in the early stages of the condition, while a more rigid and hinged knee brace will be best for moderate to severe cases.
The GenuTrain A3 may not look like much, but it can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms through a combination of medical-grade compression knit and silicon padding. Put simply:
- The compression knit boosts circulation, warming up the muscles and reducing stiffness.
- The knit also activates the nerves running through the knee, helping them act as better messengers to communicate joint movement and placement, thus improving your sense of proprioception. And with enhanced proprioception, your body can adjust your knee's adduction and abduction (inward and outward tilt), helping distribute pressure more evenly.
- And last but not least, the knit works together with a sewn-in pad to massage and relieve painful areas.
Now, this brace focuses on what we call the ‘internal’ support network. Basically, it lets your muscles work as better supports for your joint but doesn’t incorporate any external supports like stays or straps. So while it’s a great brace if your symptoms are mild, it will not be a good fit for more advanced stages of the condition.
The GenuTrain OA, meanwhile, does incorporate external support. Along with compression knit fabric, it also features hinged stays and straps to minimise bone-on-bone contact. Through its unique BOA system, you can unload different compartments in the knee to varying degrees (and with millimetre precision) depending on the severity and location of your symptoms.
Do note, however, that the GenuTrain OA is a semi-rigid brace, making it ideal for moderate osteoarthritis cases. While you can still wear it if your symptoms are mild, getting such a robust brace may not be strictly necessary. Additionally, it will likely not provide the support you need if your cartilage degeneration is severe. For that, a fully rigid brace is best.
This knee brace for osteoarthritis is designed for severe cases of the condition. Its aluminium stays and straps provide increased support for your knee, helping you unload either the medial or lateral compartments of the joint. And while it might look a little uncomfortable, this brace is lightweight, highly adjustable, and has internal gel padding.
Do keep in mind, though, that because it doesn’t have compression fabric, it won’t have the same circulation-boosting benefits as the GenuTrains.
Some considerations for knee arthritis braces
First, whatever brace you get needs to be made of quality materials. The stays need to be strong enough to support your weight, straps should have enough strength to stay stuck, and the compression knit should always be medical-grade. Importantly, the brace should also have undergone rigorous R&D to ensure it’s an effective arthritis brace.
Second, the brace must fit you perfectly. It shouldn’t pinch, bruise, or move around on your leg, so ensure the sizing system is not generic and avoid one-size-fits-most supports.
And third, osteoarthritis is a long-term condition. You’ll need to consider the long-term comfort of the brace you choose. Hence, factors like breathability and cushioning are key.
So. We’ve established that braces can be excellent knee osteoarthritis aids. But as with any medical condition affecting the joints, they shouldn’t be your only focus.
- Exercise regularly. Your knee cartilage is primarily avascular, meaning it gets nutrients from joint fluid instead of blood. The fluid can only circulate through the cartilage with the motion and pressure that moving about provides. Hence, low-impact exercises like walking and cycling will help your cartilage get what it needs, slowing the progression of this condition.
- Eat right. A diet rich in Vitamins D and K has been shown to improve muscle function and cartilage health, respectively. You can get these vitamins through leafy greens, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon.
- Good shoes or insoles. Unlike a brace, these likely won’t significantly affect your pain levels while you move. However, they’ll still help relieve some pressure on your knee joint by supporting the arches and cushioning the heel.
Learn more: Top 6 Exercises for Knee Pain
To sum up
Osteoarthritis can be a frustrating condition. Depending on its severity, it can restrict your movement and drastically affect your quality of life. Fortunately, a good osteoarthritis knee brace can support your knee enough to minimise symptoms and get you up and moving again. You'll need to make sure the brace is right for your condition, the right fit for your leg, and made of the right stuff.
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.Do you have private health? Most private health extras will cover Bauerfeind Products. Check to see if yours is included. Bauerfeind Private Health Insurance Inquiry.