Don't let knee pain hold you back

Ask questions, find solutions, and get on with life’s big adventure! This section takes you through a few of the more frequently-asked questions from people experiencing knee osteoarthritis and the pain that accompanies this condition.

Treatment: non-surgical options

Appointments: getting a brace

Braces: why and how to use

Treatment: Non surgical options

Although no cure currently exists for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, several non-surgical treatment options are available to help alleviate the pain and allow you to get on with your life.

There are certain braces that apply corrective forces to the leg to take pressure off areas where the arthritis is at its worst. In the past, these tended to be fairly bulky devices, but now there are lightweight, easy-to-use braces such as the Unloader One and Unloader One Lite, specifically designed for knee OA and clinically proven to help with the pain. Bracing can also be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as exercise and weight loss programs, injections and physical therapy.

If your doctor thinks that massages and/or exercises may help, they can refer you to a physical therapist, who can work with you on an exercise program tailored to your needs. If you would benefit from things like a higher chair or toilet seat (so you don’t have to bend your knees so much), you may find it useful to talk to an occupational therapist, who will know all about special devices to make home and work life easier and less painful.

Medication is used primarily to control the symptoms of knee OA, especially the pain. There are a number of prescription drugs and common over-the-counter-medicines that can help. These include aspirin-free pain relievers (paracetamol), anti-inflammatory drugs and creams, corticosteroids (steroids may help control inflammation) and sleeping pills.

Pain can gradually get worse as the OA progresses, so sometimes stronger drugs are prescribed. However, the long-term nature of OA means that taking stronger medication over a long period of time may lead to unwanted side-effects, something that needs consideration. Injections of hyaluronic acid (found naturally in healthy joints) can also be used to provide temporary relief, while anesthetics with an anti-inflammatory ingredient (commonly cortisone) may help to relieve the pain by numbing the knee. These kinds of injections are well-established treatments, but the results can vary from patient to patient.

If you can lose any surplus body weight, you will help to ease the pain because the stress on your knee is reduced. Regular exercise can help to achieve that. It can also improve your strength and flexibility, which will help to increase movement and potentially reduce the pain. It’s important to include joint and muscle exercises, but AVOID high-impact activities that increase the load on your knee as much as possible – climbing lots of stairs for example. Avoid activities that involve twisting or rapid stop/start movements. Try not to kneel down too much, or lift heavy objects. Don’t sit down too often on low chairs or sofas. And if you do have to do any of these things, remember to take a break and give your joints a rest.

Appointments: Getting a brace

Getting an Unloader brace is a relatively straightforward process. You can get clarification on insurance coverage or any potential cost prior to making any commitments.

1. Get a prescription

First, you will need to visit your doctor for a confirmed diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis (OA), typically medial or lateral unicompartmental knee OA. Consider printing or emailing a copy of one of the brace product pages from this site, so that your doctor can check if this treatment is right for your needs.

2. Find a practitioner

Once you have a prescription for an Unloader brace, you need to contact an orthotist/practitioner in your area who can fit you. Your doctor may have a recommendation or referral. It is always advisable to use a qualified practitioner for initial fittings.

3. Check costs prior to making a commitment

Once you have located a suitable practitioner, have them verify your medical insurance coverage before you make any commitments, so that you are aware of any potential out-of-pocket costs before purchasing the brace.

4. Get fitted properly

A good fit is essential for comfort and effective knee OA pain relief. The practitioner will ensure that a) the brace is fitted correctly, and b) you know how to use it to best effect before you leave. It is advisable to bring a pair of shorts to the fitting so that the practitioner can fit the brace correctly.

Braces: Why and how to use

An Unloader brace that has been correctly fit by a practitioner is easy to maintain, and when used properly can alleviate the pain caused by knee osteoarthritis (OA).

It is recommended that you build up the time spent wearing the brace gradually during the first three weeks. In the first week, two hours per day is the recommended maximum length of time. In the second week, you can start to wear your brace for up to four hours per day. By the third week, you can wear your brace for six to eight hours per day, or as needed.

Your practitioner can explain more when fitting the Unloader, and you will receive a patient guide to take home with you.

Please refer to the patient guide for additional information.

Össur

This will depend on many factors. Some individuals wear their brace to remain active and delay the need for surgery as long as possible, while others wear it to become healthier surgical candidates. Talk to your doctor about your aspirations and goals for the use of your Unloader brace.

The Unloader applies a gentle force that is designed to reduce the pressure on the affected part of the knee. The amount of force is adjustable, allowing you to always be in control. Easing the pressure helps to ease the pain, allowing you to use your knee normally and more frequently.

Össur

Yes, the goal of an Unloader brace is to keep you active and help you return to the activities you enjoy. It is recommended that you wear your Unloader brace during periods of activity, whether it be sport, work or everyday activities.

Yes, all Unloader braces are carefully designed to sit comfortably against the skin and underneath clothing. By wearing it on the skin (i.e. not over your clothes), it stays in place and therefore works effectively.

It is recommended to go through the practitioner that originally fit you with the brace to receive replacement parts for your product. Your practitioner can help identify what replacement parts are needed and order the accessories you need.