Saturday, April 22, 2017

Knee Braces: What’s Your Experience?

I dug this article on a new “bionic” knee brace out of the dustbin this morning. Yes, it’s from last year (hence the “dustbin” allusion), but the idea of knee braces intrigues me:
A pair of Nova Scotia researchers are close to producing a "bionic" knee brace that enhances ability and reduces fatigue, and have now landed a lucrative contract to produce a beefed-up version for the Canadian Armed Forces.
The so-called Levitation brace can reduce the burden of carrying heavy weights. But another intended use, the article makes clear, is for athletes going through rehabilitation.

To be fair, this very expensive, lightweight carbon brace probably isn’t the best example for a knee pain blog. It seems to compete more with robotic exoskeletons. So if you have normal knees and want to turn into Super Ant, this may be the knee brace for you. For knee pain sufferers, you can probably find something serviceable for a cheaper price (this brace costs a bit less than $2,000, from my quick Google search).

Anyway, back to the point: What’s the usefulness of knee braces? As I wrote here, the neoprene sleeve braces aren’t probably much good at all. Even so, doctors still recommend them (one advised my wife to wear one for a swollen knee).

So what’s your experience? Knee braces – worthwhile or waste of money? If you want to weigh in, please leave a comment below.


  1. I’ve tried a bunch of knee braces, with different results at different times.

    My first was a sleeve brace (PROLITE 3D Knee Support) when my first orthopedist diagnosed a maltracking patella. I tried it on in her office, and the relief was immediate. Unfortunately, it didn’t help that much at home, and even hurt me at the time although I later ended up going back to it.

    With this doctor, I got sent to an orthotics shop for my braces instead of just being handed a prescription, so I was able to get fitted for something that worked better. My second brace was a Hely & Weber hinged brace (I think Axis, but I don’t remember the exact model). I slept in this for several months - unlike many other sufferers, my problem originally only happened when I was resting so the brace helped hold my knees in a “safe” position.

    I also tried a number of cheap, wrap-around braces from the drugstore. These proved more or less useless, except to hold heating pads in place when I was going through the phrase of sleeping in heating pads.

    As I got better (I have gotten better) I found it helpful to have compression - I don’t cramp up as bad. I think it works mostly by suppressing the swelling.

    Before my last cortisone shot, I needed compression, but it was unbearable to have any pressure on the kneecap. I tried three or four open-patella braces and they all sucked - the opening was never wide enough and often the edge of the opening “bit” unbearably into my poor kneecap. I would order a custom brace if I could afford it but I ended up just buying another Pro-Lite and cutting holes in it. I’m still wearing this.

    Taping has also been helpful - both in the beginning and lately, when I have more swelling. I have a cheap Ace bandage from the drugstore that’s helped a lot, although I periodically have to stop wearing it because if I do this too much it causes circulation problems.

    For my “complication” (the sprain I got after having inflammation from my resting problem for so long) I haven’t had much in the way of good experience wearing braces out and about ...and plenty of bad ones. At the beginning of March for example, I wore the Hely&Weber hinged braces out for a couple hours thinking it would help take the weight off my knees. It felt fine at the time but I had horrible flaring burning pain in my joints starting a few hours afterwards and was reduced to crawling for a whole month. I have no idea what was wrong and it probably wasn’t just the braces (at the time I had only recently gotten well enough to walk unassisted, and had probably hurt myself doing so already). But the timing of that flareup strongly indicated the braces were at least partly responsible.

    Currently I wear the Pro-Lites to sleep in. It’s a pretty good brace.

    1. This is a great overview of knee braces and of experience wearing them, Amy. Thanks so much for weighing in.

  2. Richard, the problem with any brace is they are only a pacifier treating the symptoms and doesn’t treat the underlying problem(s). Over my 30+ years of knee pain I have purchased and used just about every type of brace available with my last one costing about $1,500. None of the braces I used fixed my problem or gave me noticeable relief from the pain.

    Finally my doctor told me the burning pain on the outside of my knee accompanied with the bone on bone pinching pain on the inside of my knee signaled the end of my knee. He told me it would need to be replaced then with a smile said unless I could figure out a way to fix it myself. So I did I spent the next couple years doing anything I could to my knee to get rid of the pain and I finally did. I found a way to apply pressure to the knee that would alleviate the burning pain on the outside of the knee and open up the inside of the knee to relieve the bone on bone pinching. The inflammation and osteoarthritis receded, the swelling disappeared, and to my amazement the pain was all gone. I am now running again and working out at a high level every day. I would love to talk with you or anyone else about the Knee Adjustment Device (KAD) I have built, the process I went through, and explain to you how the device works. Please visit my website ( to see information about the KAD and my contact information I am available anytime.

    Dean Cravens

    1. Dean
      I wonder if it was your synovial lining that was pinching, not so much a 'bone on bone' issue. Bone on bone would indicate your cartilage was gone, and I can't see stretching the knee helping that. But, combined with avoidance of aggravating activities, perhaps anti-inflamatories, stretching and just the right amount of motion, I can see the synovium returning to normal and not pinching in the joint or hurting/burning all the time.

      BTW I continue to improve. Found myself squating/kneeling over the weekend with no negative repercussions.

      I still use closed knee braces at night to keep my knees warm. Seems to help the circulation and recovery.

    2. TriAgain,

      I appreciate the comment and information. In my case it is bone on bone my injury was from a football helmet (1978) hitting my knee directly on causing the cartilage to pretty much explode. I did not have arthroscopic surgery done on my knee until 1986 and the doctor allowed me to watch on the monitor the camera he was using from within my leg he describe to me what I was seeing and what he was doing. He vacuumed up all the particles floating around which is what he said were the remnants of my cartilage and other debris. He then trimmed off the frayed edges of what was left of the cartilage attached to my bone he tapped on both ends of my bones and stated this is where you will have your problem over time not having any protection between these two bones. The pain as I describe it for me was really the severe inflammation of the bones and surrounding area along with the osteoarthritis that caused the pinching feeling every time I stepped down. Opening up the knee and expanding the area between the bones allowed the inflammation to dissipate, the arthritis to recede, the swelling to go away, and pain to subsequently disappear. So now I still have the bone on bone area I just don’t have the inflammation or pain. I work out doing light running combined with cross training exercises every other day and do a cross training work outs of multiple exercises on the in between days to exercise my total leg/body.

      As you accurately stated the avoidance of aggravating activities like in my case too many impact exercises or too many lateral movements help to keep the problem from returning. There are days I overdo it or just land wrong and I make sure I apply my device to my knee just before bed to ensure it has that rest time to heal and not get inflamed. I have been doing this routine for several years now with great success. The one thing for me that has not caused me any problem at all since I got rid of it with the device was the burning pain on the outside of my knee caused by the bowing outward. The straightening out of the knee has made that something I don’t even have to worry about. To your point on the synovial lining in some cases this could be the cause as anything getting in between the bones or in the knee joint can cause the pinching feeling especially when you step down we are not always sure what is really going on in our knee joint. I would never say my situation is identical to anyone else’s but I do believe with variations of what I do you can solve many problems and reduce the pain. I love talking with other people with knee pain and try to figure out what can be tried to help them out. Heck for that matter I enjoy talking about working out and trying to relieve pain from any area because everyone has their ideas and methods and I can always learn something that I can use.

      I am glad to hear you are improving and able to get range of motion out of your knee with no repercussions. I am a true believer that exercise strengthening the leg and knee and there are many exercises you can do to work out the leg that are no impact. I don’t use braces anymore but I can see where they could add warmth for soothing and you could add some icy hot type of cream also under the brace that may also help loosen up the joint.

      Again I appreciate your response and information and hope you continue to see improvement contact me any time to talk. Sorry so wordy but I am passionate about this stuff I enjoy it much more than my paper pushing desk job.


  3. I tried an open patella knee brace and found it increased my symptoms. The more I tried to walk with it on, the worse my pain got. Considering my diagnosis of synovitis, this makes sense in retrospect - the brace was compressing an already inflamed synovium and creating friction with movement. Not good!

    1. I essentially had the same issue that you do with my pain being predominately on the inside bone on bone and outside soft tissue stretching/straining. Through my experiments with my own knee trying to relieve the pain I have come up with a couple things you can try right now without any devices or equipment. Here are a couple URLs for videos (Knee Pain Relief Standing or Sitting Differently, Knee Adjustment Device (KAD) - Home Simulation) I quickly put together that show you how to manipulate your knee to relieve the pain. Try these several times a day for a few minutes and give it 8 or 10 days and see if either or both help at all.

      These are also on my website
      (Click on the Informational Videos tab)

      Good luck and let me know how it goes.

    2. This was my experience as well, Amy. I felt like the main problem was the brace didn't really fit - the hole was too small and the edges were too sharp.

    3. Mr Craven, I decided to have a little faith for once and attempted the technique you demonstrated in your video for relieving medial knee pain. It caused instant pain and temporarily worsened my condition. If I have learned anything from this forum, it is that knee pain is highly individual and there is no 'one size fits all' approach.

    4. Amy, I am sorry your pain worsened and I totally agree there is no one size fits all because not everyone's pain is caused by the same thing. Similar pain does not always mean similar injury. Please keep trying things and let us know if you come up with something that helps you. If I come up with other methods I will pass them on as well. Take care and I wish you the best in your pain relief.

    5. Thanks Dean. Much appreciated!

  4. I too had a very bad experience using braces. It only worsened the pain and was pinching the knee too. I tried getting it and increasing the size of the hole too but it did not work. I was able to get some relief by using the knee strap above the knee rather than using it the way it is being used conventionally.


    Healing time

    1. Healing time,
      I would love to talk with you directly to discuss what you can try to help you get relief. After working with my knee all this time I have found there are many ways you can manipulate the knee to try and find out what will work for your unique issue/problem. I believe every one’s issue is unique no two problems are identical and I found out when I was researching on my knee how simple little things made a big difference. I would try one thing and get some relief and try something just slightly different and get severe pain. But each time I tried something I mapped out what it was doing and the result so I could triangulate all the information and could figure out what was the problem and what things would, wouldn’t, or should work.

      I think maybe if we brainstormed we might be able come up with something that will work for you. Talking with other people who have used my device and listening to how they used it and what they used it in conjunction with has opened up many more approaches that I had never really tried. I have also tried many other things during my research other than my device and exercises that I could discuss with you that you could try at home with no expense.

      I appreciate your response and information and hope we get a chance to talk.


  5. I'm hypermobile and while this provides for lots of party tricks, it also means I have no balance and my joints are very unstable. I thought a knee brace would help stabilize my knee but all the types I tried made it worse. I couldn't stand the compression feeling and it felt the swelling got worse. Strengthening my knee by walking made it get better but for people like me there is an essential element of strengthening the surrounding elements to prevent the problem reoccurring. I didn't want to go down the route of the usual strengthening exercises that ultimately destroyed my knee in the first place. Exercises in the pool worked for me. What they did was making my muscles around act like a brace, if you see what I mean?