Can A Knee Brace Cause More Pain?: The Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects of Knee Braces

Can A Knee Brace Cause More Pain?: The Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects of Knee Braces

As many as one in four US adults experience frequent knee pain. Many of them wear a knee brace at first, but some discontinue their use. With that pointed out, you may now be wondering, "can a knee brace cause more pain?"

Yes, there's a risk of feeling more discomfort when wearing a knee brace for the first time. An incorrect fit can also make you feel uncomfortable. As such, it's vital to choose a brace with the proper size, adjustability, and materials.

When Can a Knee Brace Cause More Pain?

Most of the time, a knee brace can cause more pain only during the first few days of use. This is often due to the knee still "acclimatizing" to the external support. A brace that's too loose, too tight, or doesn't have breathable materials can also cause more pain.

How Exactly Can a Knee Brace Cause More Pain?

Some types of knee braces can cause some discomfort during the first few days of use. This is often more common in rehabilitative braces, as they can be heavy and bulky. Their weight, plus their thicker construction, can make you feel hot at first.

A poor-fitting brace can also cause some skin irritation or swelling. This usually happens with braces that are too tight, as the material can graze at the skin. This, plus the sweat produced by the skin, can then irritate the skin.

There's also the risk of stiffness in the knee in which you wear a brace. This can happen if you favor the other knee for long periods, which can then lead to reduced use of the affected knee. As a result, your brace-wearing knee can develop joint stiffness, pain, or discomfort.

What Are the Risks of Wearing a Poor-Fitting Knee Brace?

If you wear a brace that's too loose, it may slip down your knee and trigger a fall. If you're wearing a brace with cushioning knee pads, it should dampen the force of the fall. Still, the heart of the matter here is that you should only wear proper-fitting knee braces to avoid falls.

Falls, after all, can be powerful enough to fracture bones. Indeed, one in five falls in the US can result in serious injuries, broken bones being some of the most common.

By contrast, wearing an excessively-tight brace can cut off your blood flow. Now, keep in mind that high-quality knee braces or pads promote better circulation. However, if you choose one that's too tight or small for you, it can instead impede blood flow.

This, in turn, can cause more pain, such as the sensation of "pins and needles." In addition, the continuous grazing of the brace's material can redden or injure your skin. This may cause some swelling and discomfort, too.

Is It Possible to Prevent Pain Caused by a Knee Brace?

Absolutely! One of the main benefits of a knee brace, after all, is to help reduce pain and prevent injuries. In many other cases, doctors prescribe knee braces to aid in knee injury recovery.

On that note, here are some of the ways on how you can prevent pain caused by a knee brace.

Get Your Doctor's Approval

A study found that one in five physical medicine doctors prescribes knee braces. Most of these physicians do this for their patients who have osteoarthritis (OA). Others issue brace prescriptions as part of the patients' treatment for knee injuries.

If you're one of the 32.5 million people in the US with OA, speak to your doctor about getting a knee brace. This way, your healthcare provider can determine if bracing will help. If your physician does prescribe it, you would likely need to wear an unloader brace.

An unloader brace is one of the most often prescribed knee devices for OA patients. That's because it specifically supports the middle and lateral sections of the knee. It aims to keep the pressure off the knee affected by arthritis, thereby easing pain.

Other braces or regular knee pads may not be as helpful for your OA symptoms. That's why if you have a specific knee condition, it's best to consult with your doctor prior to using a brace. This way, you can avoid buying the wrong kind of knee support that may only cause more discomfort.

Get the Perfect Size

Most high-quality orthopedic knee braces are adjustable, so this shouldn't be an issue. If you're getting non-adjustable knee sleeves or supports, you need to take measurements.

To do this, get a tape measure and note down the circumference of the middlemost part of your knee. It's the "bulkiest" area of your knee, so it's also the "thickest." Then, measure the circumference of the thigh area (just above your knee), as well as your calf.

Once you have these figures, you can determine if you need to get a knee sleeve in small, medium, large, or even XL.

Mind the Tightness

Compression is one of the most often-used first-line treatments for injuries. Scientists also say it may be effective in managing injuries. During the healing process, it can help reduce swelling, which often causes pain.

However, overcompression, as mentioned above, can also cut off circulation. If the knee brace, pad, or sleeve is too tight, then less blood can flow to the injured area. This can then impede healing, as less oxygen and nutrients get to reach the injury.

As such, make sure that you pay attention to the tightness of your knee support. It should be tight enough that it's not slipping, but it shouldn't be overly tight that it "chokes" your knee. If it's a proper fit, it should allow you to bend your knee to some degree.

Invest in a Brace With High-Quality Construction

To prevent skin irritation, make sure the brace utilizes breathable materials. This means that the fabric allows for the quick evaporation and dissipation of sweat. This is important as trapped perspiration can trigger skin reactions, like rashes.

You should also choose a knee brace made from soft and comfortable materials. These features help prevent friction-induced redness or rashes. They also help add to the comfort you'll feel as you wear the device.

Consider Your Clothes

If you choose to wear braces over clothes, be sure the clothing fabric is thin enough and breathable. They should boast of moisture-wicking or quick-dry technologies.

With that said, most activewear, such as sports leggings or yoga pants, have these features. You can opt to wear knee braces over these clothes. Just make sure to adjust your brace's tightness; otherwise, it may feel uncomfortable.

Use the Brace as Directed

If you need a post-operation knee brace, your doctor will likely tell you to wear it 24 hours or for most of the day. In doing so, the brace can lend optimal support to your recovering knee. The device also stabilizes your knee and legs, helping prevent re-injury.

If you have chronic knee pain, you may also have to wear a knee brace for several hours a day. Your doctor can help you determine how long exactly you should wear the support. What's vital is to follow your physician's orders so that you can maximize the benefits of the brace.

Using the Brace at the Right Time

If you sustain a knee injury, swelling often occurs immediately after. Icing this area can help ease the inflammation, but your doctor may tell you not to wear a brace right away. In most cases, the swelling from injuries diminishes within the first couple of days.

Once the inflammation improves, your doctor is likely to tell you to start using the brace. The compression from the brace can promote improved circulation to the injured site. The stabilization it provides can keep your knee from sustaining yet another injury.

Exercise Your Knee

Resting your knee for the first few days after an injury helps ease the swelling and pain. The only exception (in most cases) is if you're dealing with a post-surgery wound.

If you have a non-surgical injury, you most likely need to start moving your knee again within a few days. Wear your brace as you exercise the knee to prevent excessive motion.

Start your knee exercises at a slow pace; your goal is to reintroduce slight movements. Don't be too hasty, as this may just cause more pain or discomfort. At the same time, don't favor your uninjured knee, as this can cause your affected knee to become stiff.

Proper Use of Knee Braces Is Key to Avoiding Pain

There you have it; all the answers to your question, "can a knee brace cause more pain?" It can, but only if you wear the wrong brace or use it incorrectly. So long as you follow our tips, though, then you can prevent them from causing more pain.

Are you in need of high-quality, comfortable, and breathable knee braces or pads? If so, then please be sure to check out PowerRebound's collection of knee braces and supports.


  • I Genevieve Ivester

    I have been wearing my leg and knee brace for a broken patella since November 2022.
    The brace never fit right. My brace slides down to my ankles causing a lot of pain in my calf inside of my knees, making it even more difficult to walk with the brace or without. What do I do?

  • Jim

    I just wore a knee brace for the first time skiing yesterday because of patellar pain from a previous running injury. Today was the second day skiing using the brace and the pain was significantly worse. There was a huge improvement once I took the brace off after a few runs. It was much better the rest of the day without the brace.

  • John Rea

    I was prescribed off loading knee braces and they were great for about six weeks. I began developing a rash and bruising on both my legs. I went to a critical care doctor who told me thatthe knee braces was causing me to have vascular eczema and I have stopped wearing them because of this.

  • jef

    Not a word anywhere about knee braces pushing in/down so hard on the patella that the patellar chondral articular surface is smashed/ground-in to the tibial articular surface below causing cartilage damage to both surfaces. My knee brace for MCL injury seems to have done this: I’ve got patellar pain now where it did not exist before. Hopefully this will heal with the brace off.

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