man wearing a Mueller hinged knee brace while hiking

Knee pain is one of the most common injuries that I see as a Physical Therapist on a daily basis. Knee pain can be acute, intermittent, nagging, or it can be extremely painful and debilitating. The pain could be due to a bruise, sprain, strain, degeneration or even a tear. Using a knee brace is a great option for anyone with acute or chronic knee pain with mild to severe symptoms. The key is choosing the correct brace and the correct size.

Knee braces are available in different types.  Different knee braces stabilize the knee, protect the knee, offload the joint, and/ or provide compression for the knee.  If used properly, they will aid in recovery and help optimize your performance.

If you use compression for an acute injury, you may be able to speed up the recovery process. If you brace a knee, you may be able to protect the joint, preventing any further injury. Be sure to remember that braces won’t necessarily be the answer to your injury, instead they are more of an aid to assist in helping you recover from the injury or possibly prevent any further damage. As a Physical Therapist, I would advise that you consult with your sports injury professional if you have any questions about which brace to wear or if you heard a ‘pop’ in the knee during injury, have severe swelling or bruising, loss of mobility, or difficulty weight-bearing on the joint.

Types of Braces


Straps add compression to tendons and to re-distribute any tension placed on it during sport / activity.


Compression Sleeves

Compression sleeves help decrease any swelling or effusion in the joint, increase blood flow, support sore joints and support an arthritic knee with mild symptoms.   They are also used as a preventative to provide support during sport or activity.  These braces are available in closed patella braces (full sleeve) or open patella (hole for patella bone) to help support and relieve pressure on the kneecap.


Stabilizer Braces

Knee stabilizer braces protect the knee and decrease your risk of injury. They are usually designed to provide compression and medial and lateral support, to prevent medio-lateral movement, using steel springs on the medial and lateral aspect of the knee.


Hinged Braces

These products use hinges to help offload your knee, while trying to keep in its natural alignment when moving the joint.  They are commonly used during an athlete’s return to sport, during ligament sprains, and post-operatively to limit the amount of range of motion of the joint or during the recovery process.