What Does a Knee Compression Sleeve Do?

Written By on February 1, 2021 — Medically Reviewed By Kristopher Ceniza

Written by on — Medically Reviewed By: Kristopher Cenzia

There are many reasons why people wear knee supports. This could be because of a sporting injury, bad posture, after surgery, or for arthritis.

The type of injury you sustain will largely account for the amount of time you will need to wear your knee compression sleeve and when.

During sport, at work, or even while you sleep can help to support the knee and decrease pain and swelling. It can also help to strengthen the knee after significant trauma.

A knee compression sleeve is a great way to begin and maximise your healing. It can significantly reduce your recovery time.

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In regards to knee compression sleeves we will be addressing;

  • How does a knee compression sleeve work?
  • Can it be worn all day?
  • What material comprises a knee compression sleeve?
  • When you should wear compression knee sleeves
  • Is compression good for knee pain?
  • Sleeping with a knee compression sleeve

protection of the knee joint due to the knee sleeve is essential and especially important as the knee is exposed to regular pressure on a day to day basis

How do knee compression sleeves work?

knee compression sleeve works in several different ways. First, it provides support for the injured joint, however, it does not work in the same way as a knee brace does.

Knee braces are designed in a way that they act to protect the previous injury from further endangerment. This is their primary function as well as supporting the injured joint.

Knee sleeves on the other hand are designed to protect the knee from future injury and reduce the risk of damage.

The protection of the knee joint due to the knee sleeve is essential and especially important as the knee is exposed to regular pressure on a day to day basis. This could be from running, jumping, or weightlifting.

Knee sleeves are often made from neoprene material and they are slid over the knee easily. Put simply, the idea behind the knee sleeve is to ultimately reduce pain.

More specifically, the sleeve adds warmth to the joint, increases blood flow, limits the patella movement, and increases proprioception, or the capacity to feel the position of a joint in space, sensed by the central nervous system.

This means that the knee compression sleeve is more than simply a mechanical support mechanism for the joint. It is also used to improve proprioception.

A knee compression sleeve is a great investment if you are working through most injuries. If the knee pain you are experiencing is chronic then you should consider wearing this kind of protection for the joint every time you exercise.

Additionally, it can be worn at any time of the day. It should be worn as much as possible, especially during the early stages of recovery.

Although it is most important to wear during physical activity, it can be worn throughout the day and even while you sleep. As long as it is comfortable to do so, the knee compression sleeves can be worn at all times.

You should of course consult your doctor or a trained professional if you have any pressing medical concerns before use to ensure that this is the right course of action for you.

The knee compression sleeves can be used in conjunction with other forms of knee pain remedies, including physical therapy, prescription medication, and exercise.

length of time that you should wear a knee compression sleeve is dependant on the type of injury you have sustained

How long should you wear a compression sleeve?

The length of time that you should wear a knee compression sleeve is dependant on the type of injury you have sustained.

The general consensus is that after 3-6 months of regular wear, a knee compression sleeve should have helped to immobilizer the injury and heal effectively so that you can use it without support.

That being said, a compression sleeve is used to prevent further injury. So, if you wish to minimise the chance for reinjury then you could opt to wear it during exercise or sporting activities.

If you are unsure about the stage of your recovery you should consult a doctor or other health care professional. They will give you more concrete and personalised answers for your recovery and when to reduce wear of your compression garment.

the most effective material to use for this support garment for several reasons.

What are knee compression sleeves made of?

Knee compression sleeves are made of neoprene material. This is the most effective material to use for this support garment for several reasons.

This synthetic fibre is known to be extremely flexible and also allows the body to breathe beneath the support.

This kind of material has been used for many different sporting goods, such as in SCUBA suits because it possesses many desirable properties.

Other than being breathable it is also waterproof and allows for proper flexibility so that the knee does not feel restricted.

Frequently asked questions

Can I wear a knee sleeve all day?

How many hours and what time of day should you wear your support

Now that you understand how the knee compression sleeves work, how long should you wear them each day? How many hours and what time of day should you wear your support?

Knee compression sleeves are generally suitable for everyday use. The neoprene material is made to be comfortable enough to wear daily without experiencing any kind of chafing, rash, or skin irritation.

However, despite it being comfortable the question of whether you can wear your knee compression sleeves around the clock is subjective to your condition and the injury that you have sustained.

It can also be a matter of how it is worn. Knee compression sleeves can be used for extended periods of time. This is of course dependant on the fact that it has the right level of tightness.

They are designed to improve blood circulation but if they are placed too tightly it defeats the purpose.

You can tell if the support is too tight if it leaves indentations on the skin or if you feel discomfort and the blood pools in the areas where the compression sleeve is used.

In this case, you would need to remove it.

In the summer months wearing compression sleeves can be uncomfortable because of humidity and the heat.

If it gets too hot, the patient may feel constricted and may need to remove it on occasion to regulate the temperature and allow the skin to breathe.

At the end of the day, you can assess what feels comfortable and for how long you can wear the support.

The longer the better, but if you have any queries about the length of wear on a day to day basis and your recovery time you should consult your doctor or physiotherapist.

When should you wear compression knee sleeves?

it can depend on the weather and how you cope with hotter conditions

Depending on your injury, the knee compression sleeve can be worn at any time of the day.

In order to get the best results, you should wear it for as long as possible each day. This could depend on your activities and also how comfortable it is throughout the day.

It can be worn around the clock. Wearing the knee compression sleeve at night can help to stabilize the joint during your sleep.

There is some advice listed below for the most effective and comfortable use of your knee compression sleeves if you choose to wear them during the night.

For daytime wear, it can depend on the weather and how you cope with hotter conditions. This can cause the leg to sweat, overheat and feel uncomfortable. If this is the case then the support can be removed regularly to allow the skin to breathe.

Most importantly, the compression support should be worn during times of physical activity. If you are planning on exercising or playing sport then you should wear knee compression sleeves to help support the knee and avoid additional injury.

At this point, unnecessary reinjury could set you back months in recovery time.

So, wearing the support for as long as possible on a daily basis should not only decrease the risk of reinjury and also provide better conditions to promote healing of the knee joint.

Is compression good for knee pain?

placing the sleeve on your knee can improve the pain and also improve the sense of stability for the joint

Knee compression sleeves are thought to help alleviate knee pain due to an increase in proprioception or kinaesthesia.

Just placing the sleeve on your knee can improve the pain and also improve the sense of stability for the joint. This is especially true for arthritic patients.

For injuries such as ACL tears which also cause instability, a functional brace is preferred. A knee compression sleeve is not a good alternative for these types of knee injuries.

Some studies even suggest that the heat from the knee sleeve is beneficial too.

Is it OK to sleep with a knee compression sleeve on?

Wearing it overnight can speed up the process exponentially

The rate at which your injury heals is dependant on how often the knee brace is worn. Wearing it overnight can speed up the process exponentially.

There are two main reasons why you should wear a knee sleeve overnight to relieve the pain and stabilise the knee joint.

We move around a lot as we sleep which can ultimately be harmful to your injury, especially post-surgery. It can help to stabilise the injury, as it does when you are active during the day.

Because of the breathable material, it is not prone to overheating during the night. Sweating and warmth are not necessarily an issue when it comes to the neoprene fibre of the knee compression sleeves.

Moving around while you sleep can also result in pain if the knee remains unsupported. It can cause you to wake up and result in discomfort.

It can also increase the risk of reinjury if you twist or put pressure on the knee during the night. It is a real concern and this is where the compression garment comes into play.

Sleeping with a knee brace

that wearing a knee support or knee compression sleeve to bed for your knee injuries

You may be considering the discomfort you may feel while wearing a knee sleeve in bed. This is minimal in comparison to the pain that can result from the unsupported knee.

It is acknowledged that wearing a knee support or knee compression sleeve to bed for your knee injuries is not the most comfortable option, it is still the most sensible course of action to immobilize the injury.

Below are some tips to reduce discomfort and allow you to enjoy a good night’s rest.

Sleeping position

For the duration of the injury, it is probably the best course of action to keep the injured leg on the outside of the bed. This makes it easy for you to pull off the blankets with little disturbance to you or your partner.

It could also mean you should swap sides of the bed temporarily until your injury has healed.

Make sure that the knee sleeve is positioned comfortably before you get into bed. If it moves during the night this can also cause discomfort and wake you.


Elevate your knee with a pillow, preferably below the brace for the best effect. This means you will likely need to sleep on your back.

If you choose to try sleeping on your side, you may need to support your back with some additional pillows.

Mich Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.