DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
A knee brace is a device worn around your knee to help you stay on your feet in spite of knee osteoarthritis. Knee braces come in a variety of designs, but most are constructed with a combination of rigid and flexible materials — plastic or metal for basic structure and support, and synthetic rubber or moldable foam for padding and positioning.
The knee braces used in osteoarthritis are "unloading" braces. You wear an unloading knee brace to counter the faulty knee mechanics that lead to joint damage.
Ideally, your knee should be aligned, so that the force of your weight falls evenly on the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) joint compartments. In reality, though, most people's knees fall short of the ideal. Instead, one or both knees rotate slightly inward, placing extra stress on one side of the joint — usually the medial compartment. This is exacerbated in osteoarthritis, where the loss of the "spacer" effect provided by the cartilage causes narrowing of the joint space and further malalignment.
A knee brace reduces knee rotation by pushing the joint in the opposite direction. This takes pressure off the part of your joint most affected by osteoarthritis and helps relieve pain. If your knee feels like it might buckle when you put weight on it, a knee brace can also help you stand and move around with more confidence.
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