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How to Properly Fit and Wear a Knee Brace

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Updated January 31, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Make sure your knee brace is fitted properly

Use the two finger rule to ensure that your knee brace is not too tight.

Brett Sears, PT, 2014
Knee brace size chart

Be sure to check the size chart on your knee brace package to ensure you get the right one.

Brett Sears, PT, 2014

If you have knee pain due to injury or surgery, you may benefit from physical therapy to help decrease your pain and improve your range of motion and strength.  Sometimes, your physical therapist or doctor may recommend you wear a knee brace to help stabilize your knee while it heals from your injury.

Often after surgery, your surgeon may prescribe a specific brace for you to wear during your recovery period.  Knee surgeries that commonly require you to wear a brace during the recovery period include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, lateral release surgery, or patella tendon repair surgery.

Your physical therapist can help you understand how to properly don and doff your knee brace and how to make sure it is fitted properly.  He or she can also help you progress properly with your gait, mobility, and strength so you can finally stop using your brace.  Just make sure you speak with your doctor and work closely with your physical therapist so you know exactly when to remove your brace.

The Dangers of an Improperly Fitted Brace

When wearing a knee brace, it is important that it is fitted properly.  A brace that is too loose will slide down your leg.  This brace will not provide adequate support for your knee, and it could potentially create a tripping hazard if it slides down too low.

A brace that is too tight may also create problems for you.  When your brace is too tight, it may cut off circulation to your leg or it may pinch nerves in your leg.  This could lead to discoloration, swelling, or numbness and tingling in your leg.

Simple Methods to Ensure Your Brace is Fitted Properly

One simple way to ensure that you are wearing a properly sized brace is to check the sizing chart that comes with your brace.  Use a tape measure to measure the girth of your knee at the joint line, and check the chart to choose the right brace.  Everyone is a little different, so be sure to try on your brace, and let your physical therapist or doctor know if your brace is feeling too tight or too loose.

The other simple method to make sure your knee brace is fitted properly is by using the "two finger" method.  Follow these steps to use the two finger method:

  • Put your brace on and fasten the straps.
  • Slide two fingers under a strap.
  • If your two fingers cannot fit under the strap, then it may be too tight; loosen the strap a bit and repeat the test.
  • If your two fingers slide easily under the strap and you can fit a third finger under the strap, then perhaps the strap is too loose.  Tighten it up a bit and repeat the test.
  • Repeat the two finger test for every strap on your brace.

When you ensure that every strap is fitted properly, walk around a bit and see how the knee brace feels.  If it slides down your knee it is too loose; tighten the straps and try the two finger test again.  If you feel pain, numbness, or tingling in your leg below your knee, your knee brace may be on too tight.  Loosen the straps and repeat the two finger test.

Wearing a knee brace after injury or surgery may be a necessary component of your knee rehabilitation protocol.  It is essential that your knee brace fits properly for your safety and for normal healing to occur in your knee.

Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist if you have any questions or concerns regarding your knee brace.  He or she can help you use the right knee brace and make sure that your knee brace is fitted properly.

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