An unloader brace is a knee brace that subtly alters the alignment of the knee as weight is taken to reduce the forces going through a vulnerable part of the knee.
An absent meniscus shock absorber may lead to narrowing of the joint space on one side, with the bones absorbing increased pressure - eventually becoming arthritic.
Who benefits from an unloader brace?
The Unloader Brace is designed specifically for active people who have arthritic damage on just one side of the joint. The idea is to reduce the forces through the joint cartilage of one side of the knee when cartilage damage is still restricted to just one half of the joint.
It is important to choose the correct brace (left or right, unloading medial or lateral compartment), and advice should be sought from your physiotherapist orthotist.
Unloaders are often used to give symptomatic relief to patients whose knee osteoarthritis is not severe enough to warrant a total knee replacement, or to patients who are waiting for a knee replacement, either a total or a partial one. They are also used to 'unload' one side of the knee after cartilage repair surgery.
An Update on Unloading Knee Braces in the Treatment of Unicompartmental Knee Osteoarthritis from the Last 10 Years: A Literature Review. Mistry DA, Amit Chandratreya A and Lee PYF. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). Surg J (N Y). 2018 Jul; 4(3): e110–e118.
Efficacy of Unloader Bracing in Reducing Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis. Ostrander RV, Leddon CE, Hackel JG, O'Grady CP, Roth CA. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). 2016 Jul-Aug;45(5):306-11.
Effects of an unloader knee brace on knee-related symptoms and function in people with post-traumatic knee osteoarthritis after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.. Hart HF, Crossley KM, Ackland DC, Cowan SM, Collins NJ. Knee. 2016 Jan;23(1):85-90. doi: 10.1016/j.knee.2015.05.006.