Updated: Jan 22
We’ve all seen the commercial of the man or woman hiking to the top of a beautiful mountain with their grandkids, loving life. Of course, throughout the commercial, we see shots of their brand new cutting edge knee brace that has changed their life…
So can a knee brace really do this for you? Which type of knee brace best suits your needs?
At our Wyckoff, NJ physical therapy clinic, we hear these questions all the time… So let’s clear some of them up right now. First off, I would say that 95% of my patients are never recommended or require a knee brace. If you properly rehabilitate or complete an injury prevention program, most of you will never need one either. Now there are times when a knee brace can be an effective COMPLIMENT to properly rehabilitated knees. Assuming that is the case for you… here is a guide on picking the right brace.
The best way to understand knee braces is by the level of support they offer:
Level 1 - Minimal Support - Very flexible
These braces are the most flexible options, they provide compression all around the knee joint. Generally used for arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis (minor pains and sprains). They will not protect against a blunt force or hard rotation to the knee like some of the other levels of support.
Get this if:
> Your knee issue is occasional and you CAN work through the pain.
> You want something lightweight, easy to get on/off, that does not restrict movement.
> Want something to reduce swelling and pain only (there is no major instability).
Example: Neoprene compression sleeves. They come in different sizes, and you can slip them right over your knee. Sleeves are comfortable and can fit under clothing. You have probably seen them all over CVS, Walgreens, and your Supermarket.
Level 2 - Moderate Support - Still allows a range of movement
These braces will provide support for pain relief from chronic conditions, or for minor/moderate ligament instabilities.
Get this if:
> Your knee interferes with daily activity or sports.
> You feel a mild clicking or shift during activity.
> You have intense pain after it flares up, physical therapy has been unable to correct.
Example: Wraparound braces. These braces are easy to put on and off, can be used during exercise and sports training. Not as lightweight and flexible as Neoprene sleeves (Level 1) but they don't have the bulk and heaviness of hinged braces (Level 3).
Knee Straps. Very effective for knee pain due to Patellar Tendonitis (runners or jumpers knee), patellar tracking issues, or Osgood-Schlatter Disease. Also helps prevent patellar injuries.
Level 3 - Maximal Support - Limited Movement
Generally heavier than Level 1 and Level 2. Best for moderate to major instabilities. These are best for recovering from surgery when you should be limiting movement to prevent re-injury
Get this if:
>You are recovering from a surgery
> It is necessary to limit movement to prevent re-injury
> There is a significant instability (shifting in the knee joint during activity)
Example: Hinged Knee Braces. They help the knee keep proper alignment when it bends to help promote healing and prevent additional injury. These braces can be soft or hard depending on the level of support required.
Level 4 - Super Maximal Support - Limits movement / Supports major knee instabilities
Bulky braces used for major joint instabilities and post-surgical protections during physical therapy.
Get this if:
> You are recovering from surgery and have been prescribed by your surgeon.
> There is a significant instability (shifting in the knee joint during activity) then no other level of support has been able to fix.
Example: Generally will be recommended by a surgeon.
How Should A Knee Brace Fit?
The brace should be snug to the knee, not painfully tight but definitely not sliding around. Overall you should feel supported but comfortable. Remember, Level 2- 4 braces provide more support and feel more rigid with each level, while compression sleeves (Level 1) allow for more movement but less support.
A knee brace is the last line of defense against knee injury, pain, swelling, and re-injury. Proper injury prevention or rehabilitation (through physical therapy and exercise) is the number one way to get the most out of your knees. If you want to do all the things you love so much, there is no shortcut by simply throwing a brace over a knee. Doing so just serves as a bandaid and is asking for future more severe issues.
Thank you for reading and good luck! Feel free to take a look around our website, there is plenty of information, free guides, and ways to reach out to us if you are looking for additional physical therapy advice.
👉🏽👉🏽If you are experiencing any knee pain and want answers NOW, I recommend a Free 30-Min Discovery Session (virtual or in-person). Our knee pain specialist will listen to your concerns and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you have. You will receive all the information you need from a physical therapist to make the BEST decision for YOUR health.
👍🏽 It is a no-obligation, no forms to sign, no credit card required, totally free consultation. This can be done Virtually or In Our Clinic in, Wyckoff, New Jersey...
👉🏽Or, Get our FREE Guide with Tips for Quick Knee Pain Relief:
If you have further questions regarding this blog post or other tips that can help you to relieve Knee Pain, Contact Us at Skyline Physical Therapy located in Wyckoff, NJ.