Knee pain is very common. Knee compression sleeves have been proven in many studies to be effective in managing knee pain from osteoarthritis. Whether you have knee pain due to arthritis, exercise, running or a degenerative meniscus tear, there is evidence to support the fact that you should consider a knee compression sleeve as a means of controlling your pain.

There are many different types of knee braces:

  • Knee sleeves
  • Prophylactic knee braces
  • Functional knee braces
  • Postoperative braces.

Knee sleeves are not considered an actual brace. They do not have any hinges, struts or mechanical support. Many scientific studies on the effects on compression knee sleeves show that they improve the pain of arthritis significantly. Along with an improvement in pain, studies show a significant functional improvement. That means that everyday activities become easier and better tolerated when you wear a knee compression sleeve. Other studies show that patients with patella pain, anterior knee pain syndrome or a runners knee will feel better with a compression sleeve as well. Granted, this does not correct the underlying abnormality, but it helps to feel more comfortable while physical therapy works to correct the problem.

It is thought that knee compression sleeves help alleviate knee pain because of an increase in proprioception.  Simply placing a sleeve on your knee can improve not only your pain but it can improve your sense of stability that many arthritic patients loose. A knee compression sleeve is not a good alternative for instability related to ACL tears, that’s where a functional brace may be needed. Other studies propose the heat from wearing the sleeve is of benefit too.

There are many different types of compression knee sleeves. There are sleeves with copper in them. It is not the copper that is providing pain relief! The copper does function as an antibacterial so it will prevent the sleeve from developing a nasty odor. When considering purchasing a compression sleeve for your  knee pain, make sure you pay attention to the sizing. The sleeve should not be tight. That’s not necessary to make them effective at alleviating your pain. If the sleeve is too tight you will not wear it.

The top compression knee sleeves that my patients (and I) have tried include sleeves from Tommie Copper, Bauerfeind, and others.  Much like Advil vs Aleve, some people might have a good response to one sleeve or the other. Most of you will feel better, but sometimes the damage to your knee is too severe for anything to work well.

Common Knee Compression Sleeves

Tommie Copper has different types of compression sleeves.  The Recovery Sleeve is as simple as they come. It fits well, silicone helps it stay in place and most people tolerate wearing it for long periods of time. It is not cumbersome and will fit under most all of your garments.

Tommie Copper also offers a Performance series of sleeves. I find that this has a more snug feel to it, but that might not translate into better pain relief.

Bauerfeind has been producing high quality knee sleeves for a long time. Their basic knee sleeve is the Genu Train sleeve. These sleeves are made of a comfortable mesh, and it is a different material than the knee sleeves made by Tommie Copper. For those of you with pain in the front of your knee, Bauerfeind recommends their P3 model  which offers more support around the patella. If you are uncertain, do not start with a model with all the supports. Sometimes the simplest is the best.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many different types of knee braces and a compression sleeve is only one type. We use the more complex braces for people with certain ligament issues or more profound feeling or instability. Bauerfeind’s most elaborate knee sleeve is the Genu Train S.  This is more support than most knee pain sufferers need, but if you feel that your knee requires the extra support than this might be worth evaluating.

There is no question that compression knee sleeves help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis for many who try them. They are certainly worth trying along with physical therapy and other non-surgical treatments that your doctor might recommend.  As with most treatments, a sleeve might not work for you.  But for many it is worth the expense and effort of obtaining one.

Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

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About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.

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