Knee compression sleeves can promote healing. They may also reduce pain and make your life easier while your knee heals. But, for how long can you wear a knee compression sleeve?
Well, this depends on your type of injury. For example, someone with a fresh and mild injury may only need to wear a knee sleeve for a few days. Some people with very specific conditions might also benefit from sleeping with knee sleeves overnight.
All that will be discussed in further detail. Here are topics you’ll find here:
- How long you should be wearing knee sleeves
- Can a knee sleeve be worn all day?
- Can you sleep with it?
- When is there a need for them?
- Choosing the right type for your condition
- The disadvantages of wearing knee sleeves
For how long should you wear compression knee sleeves?
Your doctor or physical therapist will be the best person to answer this.
They will assess a few factors about your injury, including:
- Your symptoms, and
- Your lifestyle
They will use these to determine how long you should wear a knee brace.
In any case, here’s a rough guideline on how long to wear knee compression sleeves:
If your injury is recent
Most health professionals consider a “fresh” injury to be around 4 weeks old. These are known as “acute” injuries.
In this case, you may need to wear a sleeve. How long? Maybe a few days or a week. Mostly while doing physical activities, like walking or exercising.
This is because knee sleeves can:
- Promote healing.
- Reduce swelling.
- Add support to the joint.
- Provide pain relief.
These benefits can reduce pain and/or muscle cramps after a hard workout. Or, help heal a mild ligament tear and prevent further injury, for example.
That’s why sleeves are so popular among athletes –; they can help them recover faster.
But, only wearing compression knee sleeves may not be enough to recover fully. Some acute injuries need physical therapy as well to heal and prevent setbacks.
Try this: The best knee sleeves for swelling
If your knee injury is due to overuse
Overuse injuries come from wear and tear of the tissues. A common example is knee osteoarthritis. Here, knee compression sleeves can help you remain active. (1)
As wear and tear advances, people with overuse injuries need more stability and support. Knee sleeves can make this process easier.
This means people with severe arthritis may need to wear knee sleeves most of the day to feel comfortable doing their daily activities.
People with this condition also feel like knee sleeves make them feel safer. (1) If this is your case, sleeves can make it easier for you to do your physical therapy exercises. The goal is to keep you as active as possible!
If you have a recurrent knee injury
Recurrent injuries are acute injuries that happen many times. For example, people that sprain their knees constantly have “chronically sprained knees.” (2)
But, recurrent injuries are hard to manage with knee sleeves only. Relying too much on knee sleeves can be harmful to you in the long term.
This is because, in this scenario, knee compression sleeves work as a crutch. They help you get by, but the cause of injury is still there. You must pinpoint the root cause to prevent the injury from happening again.
If this is you, please go to a physical therapist. They will identify the main cause and give you a treatment plan for it.
Should you have any trouble finding a PT in your area, we can help.
Can you wear knee braces 24/7?
You could, but it’s generally unnecessary.
Knee braces and compression sleeves won’t do much for you if you’re not moving. So, you likely won’t need to wear them when you’re in bed or if you’re just sitting in your office.
Also, wearing a compression sleeve or brace more than necessary may cause skin irritation. If you grow dependent on them, you might even weaken your muscles.
The only exception is after knee surgery. Your doctor may recommend wearing a knee brace all day for the first few days post-surgery to protect the torn tissues while they heal.
On a related note…
Can you sleep with your knee sleeve on?
I wouldn’t recommend it to most healthy people.
You see, while we’re awake, our muscle contractions promote blood circulation. With the help of the sleeve, this system helps inflammatory fluid away from the knee joint.
But when we sleep, the lack of movement means our hearts have to do 100% of the job. And the blood may not circulate optimally if you’re wearing a compression sleeve.
This lack of circulation may increase pain and swelling in the affected leg. But there’s an exception.
Sleeping with a compression garment may help if you have lymphoedema.
Research suggests that people with lymphoedema may sleep better if they wear some type of compression garment while sleeping. Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that causes swelling on one or more limbs.
So, unless you have lymphoedema or your doctor/therapist tells you to, avoid sleeping with a sleeve.
If you need to sleep with a knee sleeve to feel better, please consult with a doctor. Most healthy people shouldn’t need constant compression to be able to rest.
When do I need to wear a knee sleeve?
Knee sleeves are made with stretchy materials, usually neoprene. This fabric compresses the joint and keeps it warm, increasing local blood circulation.
This increased blood flow enhances mobility, decreases swelling, and relieves pain. The compression is designed to provide stability and support as well.
So, you may benefit from wearing a knee sleeve if you have:
- Limitation in the knee joint range of motion.
- Knee pain during or after working out.
- Knee arthritis.
- Patella tracking problems.
- Mild or moderate instability due to a sprain.
- An injured knee and want to promote healing.
Wearing hinged sleeves may help prevent injuries from playing contact sports as well.
But, this is a case-by-case decision. Consult with a therapist if you’re not sure whether you should wear a knee sleeve or not. You may not need one at all, or you may need something more supportive.
How to choose the right knee sleeve for you?
Wearing compression knee sleeves or a knee brace can enhance your recovery. But, these garments are one piece of the treatment.
They won’t replace strength training, stress management, proper sleep, and nutrition. All of these are decisive factors when it comes to full recovery.
With this in mind, you may want to wear a knee brace or sleeve to aid your healing process. If that’s the case, take these things into consideration:
Choose the right type of knee sleeve for you
Open knee sleeves have a hole for the patella. It keeps the kneecap in place and removes pressure in that area. They’re a great option for people with pain at the front of the knee while training.
Some sleeves have adjustable straps to change the amount of compression. Others have removable hinges. Both provide additional support, but in different ways.
If you’re not sure which design will be best for your needs, go to your doctor or therapist. They will know which knee brace will help you the most.
Make sure it’s the right size
If the knee brace isn’t tight enough, it won’t give any benefits.
But, if it’s too tight, it can restrict the blood flow down to your leg. The uncomfortable compression can increase knee pain and/or damage your skin as well.
In both scenarios, you won’t be able to wear your knee brace. So, make sure to spend some time searching for the correct size.
Also, sizing charts may vary between brands. Double-check the size before buying!
This might help: Making sure you choose the right-sized knee sleeve
The downside of knee sleeves
They can get smelly fast
Most people wear knee sleeves while doing physical activities. This is great because the compression will provide some stability, enhance recovery, and can reduce knee pain.
But, this also means the sleeve will accumulate sweat. This can foster smelly bacteria if you don’t wash the compression sleeves often. (3)
Minimize this by letting your knee brace air dry after wearing it. Also, wash it following the instructions of the manufacturer. This will prolong the life of the sleeve and keep it smell-free.
For more details: Step-by-step guide to cleaning your knee brace
Some people have skin irritation or rash after wearing knee sleeves. This can happen due to heat.
The accumulation of sweat combined with the hot temperature can irritate the skin. Remove your sleeve from time to time to avoid this. Or, apply talcum powder before putting the sleeve on.
Also, some people are allergic to neoprene. This is problematic as most knee sleeves are made with this material. If this is you, try wearing a sock under the sleeve so it acts as a buffer.
False sense of stability
If you’re wearing knee sleeves for additional stability, don’t overdo it. I know it’s tempting, but you risk worsening your injury.
Remember that knee sleeves – and any knee brace – add to the skills you already have. Focus on improving your natural stability without sleeves. A physical therapist can help you with this.
Related: Easy exercises to strengthen your knees
Compression sleeves may not be enough in severe knee injuries
Knee sleeves may not be enough in severe injuries, like ligament or meniscus tears. In this case, a better option may be a hinged knee brace.
Hinged knee braces are bulkier than sleeves. They have plastic or metal hinges on one or both sides of the joint. This design removes pressure on the ligaments and avoids further injury.
Some hinged braces include compression knee sleeves to promote healing.
For further reading: The 5 differences between a knee sleeve and a knee brace
Can you wear compression knee sleeves all day?
If it’s the right size, you can. But, it can be unnecessary for most people.
Most sleeves help in specific activities. Like recovering after training or stabilizing the knee while walking, for example.
If you need to wear a knee sleeve most of the day, it’s best to check with your doctor.
How long should you wear a knee brace?
This depends on the severity of your injury and the treatment
Minor sprains may need a knee brace for a few days. But, people that underwent knee surgery may need to wear it for weeks.
Can you sleep with a compression sleeve on your knee?
If your doctor or therapist recommends you to. In general, it’s not a good idea to sleep with a knee compression sleeve on.
Conclusion: how long should you wear a knee compression sleeve?
You may need to wear knee sleeves for a few days, or a few weeks. This will depend on your injury, your symptoms, and your treatment plan.
Avoid sleeping with your sleeve unless your therapist/doctor tells you otherwise. This could increase your pain and swelling, missing the point of wearing a sleeve in the first place.
And finally, remember that sleeves are additions to the skills you already have. They won’t replace your natural strength, range of motion, and stability.
- Chuang, Shih-Hung et al. “Effect of a knee sleeve on static and dynamic balance in patients with knee osteoarthritis.” The Kaohsiung journal of medical sciences vol. 23, 8 (2007): 405-11. doi:10.1016/S0257-5655(07)70004-4
- Knight, Kenneth L. “More precise classification of orthopaedic injury types and treatment will improve patient care.” Journal of athletic training vol. 43, 2 (2008): 11 7-8. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-43.2.117
- Lam, Tze Hau et al. “Understanding the microbial basis of body odor in pre-pubescent children and teenagers.” Microbiome vol. 6, 1 21 3. 29 Nov. 2018, doi:10.1186/s40168-018-0588-z