Is an unloader knee brace actually more effective than cheaper alternatives from CVS, Walmart or Walgreens?

Study: Comparing an Unloading Knee Brace to a Simple Neoprene Sleeve to No Brace on an Osteoarthritic Joint

Complete study is from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 1999

The purpose of this study was to compare an unloader knee brace, a neoprene sleeve, and medical treatment only with no brace with regard to their ability to improve quality of life and the functional status of patients who had osteoarthritis of the knee.  Any patients who had already received knee surgery were excluded from this study.

One hundred and nineteen patients were selected at random. The control group (patients wearing no knee support) consisted of forty patients.  The neoprene-sleeve group was made up of thirty-eight patients and the unloader-brace group made up of forty-one patients.  The average age of all three groups was 59 years old.

The Results?

At the six-month follow-up evaluation, there was a significant improvement in the disease-specific quality of life and in function in both the neoprene-sleeve group and the unloader-brace group compared with the control group (patients with no knee support.)

There was a significant difference between the unloader-brace group and the neoprene-sleeve group with regard to pain after both the six-minute walking test and the thirty-second stair-climbing test.

There was a strong trend toward a significant difference between the unloader-brace group and the neoprene-sleeve group with regard to the change in the WOMAC* physical function scores.

*(WOMAC) is a widely used set of standardized questionnaires used by health professionals to evaluate the condition of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, including pain, stiffness, and physical functioning of the joints.

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