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5 Best Unloader Knee Braces (That Really Work)

Knee pain and inflammation can be excruciating, debilitating, and life-changing, but with the right kind of intervention, pain and suffering can be relieved. There are therapeutic options for such discomfort, and the use of an unloader knee brace is one way of stabilizing conditions that affect the knees.

Knee Brace

An unloader knee brace is most often used by those with knee osteoarthritis and associated conditions. Others with knee injuries who are experiencing pain from recent knee surgery or recovering from an accidental injury that has affected the knees (s) or have experienced a sport’s related injury, find that the proper knee brace will not only help to relieve the pain but will allow them to continue with normal activities, sports and work.

Different Types

There are different types of knee braces and your doctor will discuss those with you and recommend one that will fit your needs as well as help you choose one that offers the most benefit. A good brace should provide stability, support and pain relief for patients with arthritis or an injury. The selection will depend on the needs of the individual and exactly what brace will actually mobilize the area in question and protect it from further deterioration and resulting discomfort. Knee brace types are categorized by use as prophylactic, rehabilitation, functional, and unloader knee braces.

Prophylactic

A prophylactic brace is designed to prevent or lessen the seriousness of ligament injuries to the knee (the medial collateral ligament), and these kinds of braces are associated with this type of sports-related knee injury.

Rehabilitation

A rehabilitation knee brace allows protection for an injured knee that has either been treated through surgery or for general rehabilitation purposes. They are designed for limited motion and have hinges that are locked into place to limit movement. They are used for a certain period of time after an injury (6-12 weeks) and are most often purchased directly off the shelf of a pharmacy, discount, or retail store.

Functional

Functional knee braces are designed for assistance or to provide stability for unsteady knees. They are used for everyday living activities or sports and are either specially made or purchased through a pharmacy or retail store. They are identified as derotation braces (provide stability at the knee joint) as they are used with injuries to ligaments and have both medial and lateral bars with different types of hinges and strap designs. They are structured to allow motion and speed in sports activities and will help even those who are into running or other sports to continue to participate. Functional types of braces have been used as well with patients with osteoarthritis to lessen the weight on painful joint areas.

Unloader

An unloader knee brace is designed to lessen the pain of osteoarthritis. It unloads stress from the affected area. It puts pressure at three different points on the thigh bone. This action forces the knee to bend away from the painful area. It unloads or transfers pressure from the inside of the damaged knee to the outside of the knee. An orthopedist/ orthopedic surgeon may suggest this type of knee brace for patients with knee osteoarthritis, which affects the inner portion of the knee (medial compartment knee). Patients with this condition usually either have a wobbly knee toward the inner knee or the outer part of the knee. The brace actually supports the area in question by adjustment of its unloading hinge.

Offloader

An offloader knee brace is designed to apply gentle pressure to the unaffected side of the knee and to align the knee to relieve compression or the squeezing force that is felt in the afflicted area. There is a thumbwheel dial hinge associated with the brace to make offloading an easy process. Offloader braces are utilized with both osteoarthritis and injury-related knee problems.

Unloader Design

The design of an unloader knee brace usually consists of molded plastic and foam with integrated steel struts, which limit movement to the side. The brace is rigid with a hinge and strap system. The straps secure the brace to the leg.

Review of 5 Best Unloader Knee Braces

With the different types of knee braces that are available, either through a doctor’s prescription for a custom made design or a reputable company that makes unloader knee braces, there are knee braces available that that are effective, relieve pain, are made well, and really work. Then, there are other knee braces that are not as effective and present issues with their fabrication and fit. Reviews of the five best unloader knee braces for osteoarthritis are included, which evaluate both the positive and less than positive factors for each one.

1. Ossur Unloader One OTS Osteoarthritic Knee Brace

Ossur Unloader One OTS Osteoarthritic Knee Brace

Ossur Unloader One OTS Osteoarthritic Knee Brace

Ossur makes a number of knee braces and this particular knee support brace is one of its original designs. It’s considered one of the best knee braces for osteoarthritis on the market and has definitive features that bring it high ratings with users. It’s designed to treat mild to serious unicompartmental osteoarthritis along with other knee conditions. With a newly incorporated design of color-coded buckles, automatic type strapping and a denser, comfortable Sensil lining, this unloader is more effective and beneficial than in the past. Its streamlined design allows for easy wearability for both osteoarthritis sufferers and those involved in sports, construction, farming and other physical work. Additionally, its fabrication includes flexible, perforated shells that fit closely to the size and shape of the area being covered. The upper part of the brace is contoured and contains Dual Dynamic Force Straps that provide more unloading advantage, and the straps enhance the relief of pain and are easily adjusted through SmartDosing dials.

Pros:

  • Light weight
  • Color-coded buckles for easy matching
  • Easily adjusted for tension levels
  • Adjustable straps for leverage
  • Sensil lining for comfort
  • Perforated shells conform to anatomy
  • Sizing options
  • Product warranty

Cons:

  • High cost
  • Fitting/sizing can be an issue
  • Brief instructions for use

2. DonJoy OA Everyday Osteoarthritis Knee Brace

Donjoy OA Everyday Osteoarthritis Knee Brace

Donjoy OA Everyday Osteoarthritis Knee Brace

DonJoy’s Everyday knee brace is one of their newer off-the-shelf knee braces that is designed for osteoarthritis of the knee. It allows those with this condition to return to everyday activities without a lot of painful transitions. The DonJoy has an easily adjustable design and its shorter length makes it handy for wearing. An inclusive medial thigh and calf frame lessens the profile of the brace on the inside of the knee, so the brace is not rubbing on the other knee. There is also a user-friendly quick release buckle system that facilitates on and off wear.

Pros:

  • Light weight
  • Shorter design
  • Ease of operation
  • Direct, frontal placement on the leg
  • Floam™ condyle pad for 100% comfort
  • Unloading strength adjustment for any activity ( through telescoping condyle pad)
  • Swivel straps and Sili-grips to lessen brace movement up/down leg
  • Thermoformed suede padding
  • Product warranty – one year

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Designed specifically for one side of the knee (medial version)
  • Bulky under clothing

3. Breg Fusion OA Plus Osteoarthritis Knee Brace

Breg Fusion OA Plus Osteoarthritis Knee Brace

Breg Fusion OA Plus Osteoarthritis Knee Brace

The Breg Fusion QA Plus is specifically designed for medial compartmental osteoarthritis and is an excellent brace choice. It has AirTech frame pads that permit circulation as well as moisture control so there is cool air getting to the skin while excess moisture and heat are moved away from the skin. It is a low profile brace that relieves pain but provides suspension and comfort at the same time. The pivoting strapping tab technology allows straps to shape to the leg for custom fit and suspension, and its ProForm technology assures a contoured fit and exceptional protection. There is also a thumbwheel dial hinge that makes adjustment for offloading an easy process.

Pros:

  • Comfortable – precise fit
  • No mobility compromise
  • Pivot point strap pads
  • Relieves pressure
  • Manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Bulky under clothing
  • Designed specifically for one side of the knee (medial version)

4. BraceAbility OA Knee Brace for Osteoarthritis

BraceAbility OA Knee Brace for Osteoarthritis

BraceAbility OA Knee Brace for Osteoarthritis

BraceAbility’s knee brace is a more affordable unloader knee support that offers a laterally (side) functioning frame and hinge, which corrects either the medial or lateral knee area. The device includes an Allen key (tool used to turn a special type of screw) to adjust and secure the fit of both the medial and lateral areas. The hinges limit side movement, which prevents the brace from coming in contact with the opposite leg. Lightweight aluminum fabrication reinforced nylon cuffs makes for extended use. Extra protection is provided through suede-like liners, so the knee is further safeguarded. Straps and liners for the brace have silicone grips to keep the brace placed on the knee area.

Pros:

  • Laterally applied
  • Quick release buckles and straps
  • Easy application and removal process
  • Low profile
  • Limits side to side movement
  • Comfortable compression/squeezing
  • No rubbing against leg
  • Worn before and after surgery
  • Manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Standard sizing – one size fits all – fitting concerns
  • Bulky under clothing – but not quite as cumbersome

5. Bledsoe Z12 OA Arthritis Knee BraceBledsoe Z12 OA Arthritis Knee Brace

Bledsoe Z12 OA Arthritis Knee Brace

The Bledsoe Z12 is designed for those with active lifestyles and provides mild to moderate pain relief. This dual upright model contains an adjustable condyle device (which refers to the ball portion of a ball and socket joint) which allows for load adjustments by up to six additional degrees (degree of inclination/angle position of the knee meeting with the other bones). The load adjustment is made by sliding the load level through the different settings of the upright brace. In addition, an upper calf strapping system with finger-trap design lessens brace movement on the leg area. The frame is made of light weight magnesium and is perfect for women, runners, tennis players, and basketball players where weight is applied to the knees through various athletic movements.

Pros:

  • Low-profile., lightweight frame
  • Adjustable hinge
  • Unique calf strapping design to prevent movement up or down leg
  • Protects patients with instability and mild to moderate Osteoarthritis
  • Delays surgery
  • Manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Not recommended for contact sports
  • Only should be used with moderate lateral unicompartmental Osteoarthritis
  • Not recommended for those with excess tissue in the area of placement
  • Some bulk

Conclusion

Osteoarthritis can put a real strain on everyday life. Activities, sports and work can be severely limited with this painful condition, but with the aid of the right kind of uploader knee brace, there is hope for a better lifestyle with any one of the knee braces reviewed here. Whether the brace is used for rehabilitation, stabilization, functionality or for participation in normal daily functions and exercise activities, there is an uploader knee brace that is made to meet your needs and relieve your discomfort.

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