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Knee sleeves or knee braces? How to make an informed choice

Knee sleeves or knee braces? How to make an informed choice

Knee sleeves and knee braces serve different purposes. One should not make a random choice as it can affect your knee
Knee sleeves and knee braces serve different purposes.
Knee sleeves and knee braces serve different purposes

There are many who deal with knee pain, which is either triggered by injuries or other conditions like arthritis. One of the first measures taken to manage pain or render support to the joints is to use knee sleeves or knee braces while moving about or working out.

Knee sleeves and braces serve two different purposes. One can’t and should not use them interchangeably. Understanding the difference between knee sleeves and knee braces is crucial in making the right choice when the need arises.

What distinguishes knee braces and knee sleeves is the intended use. Also, factors such as the nature of the injury, the degree of pain and the method of treatment determine whether a knee sleeve or brace is appropriate.

Knee sleeves and knee braces for immobilising

Treatment for knee injuries such as fractures and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears require immobilising the joint. Both knee sleeves and braces can be used for that.

“The basic function of any knee sleeve or brace is to find a balance between mobilisation [movement] and immobilisation [a state wherein there is no need for movement] in the joints,” says Aditya Kamal, a physiotherapist from New Delhi. “We recommend a knee brace or a sleeve depending on the severity of the ailment. Anyways, the purpose is to provide external support to reduce the load on muscles and ligaments, which can increase the severity of the injury.”

Knee sleeves for stability

Knee sleeves prevent injuries or reinjuries by supporting the joint and preventing patella movement (kneecap movement) without hampering the range of motion.

“Knee sleeves are made of elastic fabric that promotes 360-degree compression to the knee, enhancing blood flow and improving stability,” says Dr Pavan Chebbi, senior consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bengaluru. “It is usually recommended for stable knees without any critical problems inside. Sleeves are an easy alternative to bandages used by the elderly for knee stability. Instead of rolling up a bandage, using knee sleeves is easy to ensure compression and provide some superficial stability.”

Knee sleeves are used by many while participating in physical activities including sports, dance and gym workouts.

According to a research article published in PLOS One (Public Library of Science One), if people with knee osteoarthritis use an elastic knee sleeve while walking it can lessen the knee’s adduction (movement of knee towards the body) angles, moments and impulses. Using a knee sleeve could be advantageous since a higher knee adduction moment has been linked to a higher risk of progression of the condition in those with medial knee osteoarthritis (arthritis in the knee).

Knee braces for perioperative period

Knee braces are ideal if there is substantial instability or structural damage in the knee.

“When there is a broken bone or ligament tear, we immobilise the knee,” says Dr Chebbi. “Here, instead of putting a plaster which will be cumbersome and expensive, we just put on the knee brace and immobilise the knee depending on the severity of the issue. It can be taken off while taking a bath or dressing.”

There are numerous varieties of knee braces in the market, each with a unique purpose. For instance, around the time of surgeries, hinged knee braces are recommended. Those who require more support than that the basic knee braces provide are also asked to use hinged knee braces.

“Hinged knee braces are used when someone has a knee condition that likely requires surgery. It can be used in people with arthritis who are getting ready for a knee replacement surgery up until that point to keep the knee from hurting. It is used when they are waiting for the surgery to be done and during immediate rehabilitation following surgery,” says Dr Chebbi.


  • Whether one should use knee sleeves or knee braces is determined by the type of injury, the level of pain and the type of treatment used.
  • Knee sleeves encourage full knee compression, which improves stability and blood flow.
  • Knee braces can be helpful when there is severe instability or structural damage.

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