Will A Knee Brace Help Bursitis? | When It’s Helpful And Which Type Is Best For You

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

A therapist helping a patient wrap the knee with knee brace

In knee bursitis, the pain and swelling can make it hard to walk. And, some knee braces can help reduce both symptoms. Knowing this, it’s logical to ask yourself: will a knee brace help bursitis?

Well, yes. A knee brace may help knee bursitis but only in certain situations. In fact, there are also times where wearing a brace can worsen your symptoms.

For example, wearing a knee brace for septic bursitis can make the infection worse. But, a brace can also promote recovery in a non-infected pes anserine bursitis.

Today, our focus will be on describing instances where knee braces are useful (along with other related topics). Here’s a list of what you’ll learn here:

Let’s start with the basics:

A brace can help knee bursitis in these scenarios

Non-infected knee bursitis

Bursitis is an inflammatory injury. Strategies that help reduce inflammation can improve the symptoms. And, knee sleeves do just that.

Knee sleeves have a stretchy fabric that compresses the joint.

This promotes blood circulation and helps reduce swelling. It can also provide pain relief.

But, what if the knee bursitis is infected? Can a knee brace help?

When bursae get infected, we call it “septic bursitis.”

In this case, wearing a knee brace may worsen the infection.

The closed environment and the compression may promote bacterial growth. This can make your symptoms worse.

How do you know if your bursitis is infected?

Knee bursitis, particularly prepatellar bursitis, is prone to infection.

A sign that you may have an infected bursitis is having a skin injury on the area.

Bacteria might have entered the bursa through there, triggering an infection. (1)

Other symptoms of septic bursitis include (2):

  • Fever.
  • Redness, warmth, and tenderness in the area.
  • Bending your knee can be very painful.

If you have any of those symptoms, go to the doctor.

They’ll probably need a sample of the bursa liquid. This will tell them which bacteria is causing the infection, to give you the right antibiotics.

Further reading: The 7 types of knee bursitis, their causes, and treatment.

If the knee bursitis is recent

We call this “acute” bursitis. Here, the area will be painful. You may have a limited range of motion on your knee joint as well.

Causes of acute knee bursitis include (2):

  • Direct hit on the bursa, like after falling.
  • Infection from a skin injury.
  • Joint disease, like gout or arthritis.

Unless it’s infected, acute bursitis may benefit from wearing a sleeve. This depends on the site of the bursa and your symptoms.

For example, let’s suppose someone has prepatellar bursitis.

In this case, wearing an open-kneecap sleeve may help relieve pain. It will reduce the pressure on the bursa and let it heal.

But, knee braces may not make much difference in chronic bursitis.

What is chronic bursitis?

This is long-term bursitis. It’s mostly caused by repetitive pressure for a long period.

People that kneel often due to their jobs can develop chronic bursitis. For example, carpenters, priests, or plumbers.

Here, knee braces may not help much because this bursitis is often painless.

The bursa had time to adapt to the pressure. The resulting bursa tends to be swollen and thick. (2)

The treatment depends on whether there are symptoms or not.

If not, the problem is mainly aesthetic. But if it’s painful, your doctor may recommend treating it with surgery. (2)

Related: How long does knee bursitis last?

Which type of knee brace is best for bursitis?

First, keep in mind that this is a case-by-case decision.

It’s best to follow the medical advice of your doctor or therapist. Stay connected with them to get individualized advice.

With that said, the best type of brace for a non-infected and recent bursitis is a knee compression sleeve.

It can promote healing in some people. But, what about other types of knee braces? (3, 4):

  • A hinged brace may be excessive. Unless you have stability issues, you don’t need the hinges.
  • An open kneecap model may be best for prepatellar bursitis.
  • A wraparound design can help in pes anserine bursitis – you could regulate the level of compression.

In the end, it’s down to which design will help your symptoms the most.

Go deeper: 5 evidence-based benefits of knee sleeves

Other ways to heal a knee bursitis

A bursa is a fluid-filled sac between tendons, bones, and/or skin. It reduces friction between tissues.

Knee bursitis happens when a bursa on the knee becomes inflamed.

This causes knee pain, swelling, and problems moving the knee joint.

Other ways to manage those symptoms include:

The RICE protocol.

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

The rest will reduce the friction on the bursa. And the ice, combined with the compression and elevation, can manage pain and swelling.

Stretches and strengthening exercises for your knees.

They can reduce the pressure on the affected bursa. This is important for athletes and people working in physical jobs.

Muscle weaknesses may increase the friction on a bursa, making you prone to bursitis.

Wearing knee pads while kneeling.

Pads can reduce the pressure from the hard surface to the bursa. This is a good strategy to prevent knee bursitis as well.

Taking over-the-counter medication.

If you don’t have any previous health condition that forbids it, these medications can reduce pain and swelling.

Talk to your doctor to know the best dose and frequency for you.

FAQs:

Will a knee brace help pes anserine bursitis?

Yes, if the bursitis isn’t infected or chronic. A knee sleeve may be the best option in this case. It can help reduce swelling and pain.

Is a compression sleeve good for bursitis?

Yes, if the bursitis isn’t chronic or infected.

Can you buy a knee sleeve online?

Yes. Take your leg measurements and compare them to the manufacturers’ sizing chart.
Sizes can differ between brands, so please pay attention to this before buying. Some brands offer free shipping.

Conclusion: Does a knee brace help bursitis?

Yes! It can help. But your bursitis should be:

  • Free of infection. If not, a brace may worsen your symptoms.
  • Fresh. Chronic bursitis won’t benefit much from wearing a brace.

The best type of brace for bursitis is a knee sleeve. It will compress the joint to reduce pain and swelling.

There are several designs to choose from, depending on your type of bursitis.

But, you should do other things besides wearing a knee brace to recover. Rest the joint, do light stretches, and have patience!

Resources

  1. Truong J, et al. “Septic Bursitis.” [Updated 2021 Jan 22]. StatPearls. Retrieved on August, 2021 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470331/
  2. Williams C H. “Bursitis.” [Updated 2021 Jan 17]. StatPearls. Retrieved on August, 2021 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513340/
  3. Chuang, Shih-Hung et al. “Effect of 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
  4. Paluska, S A, and D B Mc Keag. “Knee braces: current evidence and clinical recommendations for their use.” American family physician vol. 61, 2 (2000): 411-8, 423-4

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Author
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.

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