Date Published: Sep 08, 2023

Unloader Braces

There is good evidence that unloader braces reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA). The benefits can include reduced pain and stiffness, reduced need for medication, improved knee function, and they may even slow the progression of OA.


Unloader braces are a more complex and expensive brace, but are considered the best type for relieving symptoms knee osteoarthritis where one side of the knee (the lateral or medial compartment) is in worse condition and more painful than the other side.

Each unloader brace will have small differences, but generally they are designed to transfer load from the worst-affected part of the knee to the better part.  They can offer some stability and increase your confidence in putting weight on your knee.

Over time, together with good levels of activity and strength training, unloading knee braces can improve knee function and reduce pain.  This is likely to be particularly noticed when going up stairs, walking or during other routine activities. A knee brace may also make it possible to walk longer distances.

Unloader braces can be fitted by appointment in our clinic or through some trained physiotherapists. The more expensive unloader braces can be trialled before buying. As a brace increases in complexity, so will the time taken to fit, maintain, put on and take it off each day. The braces are usually just worn during physical activity, and are removed when at rest.

Be Aware

The unloader braces may feel heavier and bulkier than other options and will make more of an impact upon your physical appearance. Some patients find these braces uncomfortable, but for those patients whose pattern of OA is appropriate and who tolerate the brace, they can be a useful addition when treating the condition.

Like any brace or aid, you should be aware that your knee brace is an enabling piece of technology designed to help you increase your activity levels, strength and fitness. The benefits that a brace delivers are not enduring or long-term solutions to your knee pain.  Rather, they are short term solutions that enable you to modify your lifestyle, strength and fitness for a longer-term result.

Mahima Kalra
Sep 08, 2023

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