An unloader knee brace can treat the pain of knee osteoarthritis. It does so by shifting (unloading) the point of contact between the bones of the knee from one where the cartilage has deteriorated to an area with healthier cartilage.
In general, there are 2 types of knee osteoarthritis. Patellofemoral osteoarthritis refers to arthritis due to inadequate cushioning between the kneecap (patella) and the femur (thighbone). Tibiofemoral osteoarthritis refers to arthritis due to deteriorated cartilage (meniscus) between the femur and the tibia (shinbone) An unloader knee brace can have features to reduce the pain of either or both of these types of osteoarthritis.
Unloader knee braces are generally associated with osteoarthritis. However, in some individuals, osteoarthritis is the root cause of torn meniscus problems (the meniscus is the cartilage that acts as a cushion between the femur and tibia). Hence, an unloder knee brace can be useful in addressing the causes of a torn meniscus if the torn meniscus is actually a result of tibiofemoral osteoarthritis.
What They Cannot Do
Now that you know what unloader knee braces do, it is also important to appreciate what they cannot do. They cannot reduce the root causes of knee osteoarthritis. They cannot stop or reverse the cartilage deterioration that is the root cause of the problem. Instead, they try to slow this deterioration and, by so doing, to defer as long as possible the time at which you may need to undergo a knee replacement operation.
Why Use An Unloader Knee Brace?
Unloader knee braces can also reduce knee osteoarthritic pain to the point at which you can resume many activities that were previously too painful for you to enjoy. For many victims of knee osteoarthritis, simple activities like going for a walk or run can can be so painful that their quality of life becomes severely compromised.
Since knee osteoarthritis tends to affect middle aged or older individuals, the use of an unloader knee brace can in many cases defer knee replacement beyond the user’s life expectancy.