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Best knee braces for meniscus tears

This article discusses various types of knee brace for meniscus tears. Not everybody with a meniscus tear will need a knee brace, so I’ll tell you when they can actually be useful. I will also point out some warning signs that you must remove your knee brace immediately. Remember, if you need more help with an injury, you're welcome to consult one of our physios online via video call.


Learn what braces work best for meniscus tears and when to wear them.

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Who needs a brace for their meniscus tear?


Not everybody with a meniscus tear needs a brace.

 

Unlike ligaments, which help to stabilise your knee and which often need a brace for added stability when they are injured, your meniscus doesn’t play that big a part in knee stability. So, if the ligaments are fine, a knee with a torn meniscus is quite stable.

 

The most important treatment for meniscus tears is to reduce the load through the knee for a while so that the meniscus can recover and doing gentle exercises to strengthen the knee. (Read more about lateral meniscus tear treatment, medial meniscus tear treatment, and rehab exercises for meniscus tears.)



However, there are specific instances where a brace may be useful:


Providing the confidence to move

If your knee is very swollen and painful, it can feel as if it wants to give way even though it isn't structurally unstable. In such cases, wearing a brace can just give it that extra bit of support and make it feel more comfortable – as if you can trust it a bit more – and that can help you to move around more easily.

 

Movement is very important for the meniscus because it helps with the healing process. So, anything that helps you to move around with more confidence is good.

 

Signalling to others that you’re injured

A brace signals to other people that you knee is injured. This is especially useful when you're in crowded places.

 

I once had to walk through London’s very busy Victoria Station with an injured knee, and it wasn’t fun being jostled all the time. If I had a brace, people might have noticed and been more considerate.


A knee brace can signal to others to move carefully around you.
A knee brace can signal to others to move carefully around you.

Note to self …

A knee brace can act as a reminder to yourself that your knee is injured.

 

People are often not aware of what types of movement can be painful for an injury. For instance, you may be doing housework and having to squat, not realising that it will hurt your injured knee until it’s too late.

 

A brace can make you think twice when doing certain movements and realise that, “Ah, I shouldn't be doing that right now.”

 

When a knee ligament is also injured

If you have injured one of the major ligaments in your knee in addition to your meniscus, it might mean that your knee is somewhat unstable. This can place extra strain on the meniscus and hinder its recovery.

 

In that case, a brace can provide extra stability, and then the meniscus can recover better.



Soft knee braces for meniscus tears

 

Soft knee braces typically just wrap around the knee; they don't provide that much stability. So, if you also have a ligament injury, they're not appropriate. But if it's just an isolated meniscus tear, they can be useful.


A soft knee brace with velcro can easily be adjusted if your meniscus injury causes your knee to swell more.
A soft knee brace with velcro can easily be adjusted if your meniscus injury causes your knee to swell more.

Typical uses:

  • To provide support if you've got a painful, swollen knee, because they're easy to adjust for the amount of swelling you've got.

  • They give you a bit of security to have the confidence to move.

  • If you are doing something active, they will allow you to bend and straighten your knee but avoid those extreme ranges of motion that can hurt your knee.

  • They indicate to other people in crowded places that you have a knee injury.

  • They act as a reminder to yourself that you've got a knee that needs looking after.

 

I prefer a soft knee brace that wraps around and fastens with Velcro, because you can adjust it if your knee swells during the day, as is sometimes the case with a meniscus injury, and tighten it up again when the swelling goes down.


If the support is too tight, it can cut off your circulation.
If the support is too tight, it can cut off your circulation.

A brace that just pulls on over your leg can’t be adjusted, and this will be bad for your circulation if your knee swells.

 

Two good soft knee braces for meniscus tears available on Amazon:

 

Unloader braces for meniscus tears

 

Unloader braces are a lot sturdier that the soft ones. They’re called that because they can be adjusted to unload/relieve the pressure in a specific part of the knee.


They are typically used by people with osteoarthritis in a part of their knee. The idea with a meniscus tear is that it can be adjusted to relieve pressure on either the inside or the outside of the knee, depending on where the tear is, to make walking and other activities a lot more comfortable.

 

Unloader knee braces can be adjusted to reduce the pressure on specific parts of the meniscus.
Unloader knee braces can be adjusted to reduce the pressure on specific parts of the meniscus.

However, whether it works as it is thought to work for meniscus tears has only been tested on cadavers (dead people). So, although the researchers have found that it seems to work in this way, this does not necessarily mean that it works in real life. Also, the study was funded by a manufacturer of these braces.

 

So, we’ll have to wait for some more research before can say for sure that unloaded braces work for meniscus tears. It’s not my first choice of brace for a meniscus tear, but if you’ve done everything right and your meniscus is still painful, you could consider giving it a go.

 

The braces in the links below are specifically for the left knee or the right knee, so if you order one, take care to select the correct side.

 


Hinged support braces for meniscus tears

 

These braces have hinged metal rods on the sides, and you can adjust them to allow the knee to move only in a certain range of motion. They provide the most support.


Hinged knee braces are only needed if you've also injured a ligament.
Hinged knee braces are only needed if you've also injured a ligament.

You probably won’t need one of these if it’s only your meniscus that’s injured. But they will contribute to your meniscus’s healing process if you have also injured a ligament in your knee and now your knee is unstable because of that.

 

The specific type of brace will rather depend on your ligament injury and not your meniscus injury. You can find more advice on the various types of knee brace in our articles on medial collateral ligament injuries and lateral collateral ligament injuries.



When to remove your meniscus tear brace immediately

 

Some people feel that they should wear a brace at all costs and not take it off even if it's uncomfortable. That is just not the case.


If a brace is uncomfortable, it's not doing its job.

 

And if it's causing weird symptoms, it could mean that it's squashing your nerves or it's cutting off your blood supply, and that's not good at all.

 

Please remove your brace immediately if you have any of these symptoms. If the symptoms persist for more than 10 minutes after taking your brace off, please see your doctor.

  • Significant swelling either above or below the brace.

  • Your leg below the brace or your foot turns blue.

  • Tingling, pins-and-needles, or numbness in the leg with the brace.

  • A throbbing or burning sensation anywhere in that leg.


How we can help


Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

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Maryke Louw

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 20 years' experience and a Master’s Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.



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