Ask questions, find solutions, and get on with life’s big adventure! This section takes you through a few of the more frequently-asked questions from people experiencing osteoarthritis and the pain that accompanies this condition.
Treatment: Non-surgical options
Although no cure currently exists for osteoarthritis (OA) several non-surgical treatment options are available that may help alleviate the pain and allow you to get on with your life.
Is bracing an option for osteoarthritis?
There are certain braces available that apply corrective forces to the affected joint where the arthritis is at its worst. In the past, these tended to be bulky devices, that were uncomfortable to wear. But now there are lightweight, easy-to-use braces that fit discreetly under clothing. Unloader One and Unloader One Lite are specifically designed for knee OA that may help with the pain.
Bracing can also be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as exercise and weight loss programs, injections and physical therapy, for better outcomes.
Can physical or occupational therapy help?
If your doctor thinks that massages and/or exercises may help soothe your osteoarthritis, they may refer you to a physical therapist, who will work with you on an exercise program tailored to your needs. If you would benefit from things like a higher chair or adjustable toilet seat, to avoid bending your knees or at your waist significantly, or to give you a better angle to stand up, you may find it useful to talk to an occupational therapist, who will know all about special devices to make home and work life easier and less painful.
What about medication and injections?
Medication is used primarily to control the symptoms of knee OA, especially the pain. There are a number of prescription drugs and common over-the-counter-medicines that can help. These include aspirin-free pain relievers (paracetamol), anti-inflammatory drugs and creams (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac), corticosteroids (steroids may help control inflammation) and sleeping pills.
Pain can gradually get worse as the OA progresses, so sometimes stronger drugs are prescribed. However, the long-term nature of OA means that taking stronger medication over a long period of time may lead to unwanted side-effects, something that needs consideration. Injections of hyaluronic acid (found naturally in healthy joints) can also be used to provide temporary relief, while anesthetics with an anti-inflammatory ingredient (commonly cortisone) may help to relieve the pain by numbing the knee. These kinds of injections are well-established treatments, but the results can vary from patient to patient.
Should I exercise and manage my weight?
If you can lose any surplus body weight, you will help to ease the pain because the stress on your joints, as well as inflammation, can be reduced. Regular exercise can help. It can also improve your strength and joint flexibility, which will help to increase movement and potentially reduce the pain. It's important to include joint and muscle exercises, but AVOID high-impact activities that increase the load on your joints as much as possible - climbing lots of stairs for example. Avoid activities that involve twisting or rapid stop/start movements. Try not to kneel down too much, or lift heavy objects. Don't sit down too often on low chairs or sofas. And if you do have to do any of these things, remember to take a break and give your joints a rest.
Osteoarthritis Diagnosis: Getting proper treatment for your knee pain
When and how to do something about possible knee osteoarthritis.
How do I know I have knee osteoarthritis?
Some of the symptoms you may feel in addition to knee pain may include joint pain, stiffness and swelling; as well as weakness in the ligaments and muscles around your knee. These can contribute to a reduction in your mobility. The symptoms listed above are typical of knee osteoarthritis. If any of these points apply to you, especially if you may have injured your knee previously, talk to your doctor about knee osteoarthritis.
How do I know if I have meniscal degeneration in my knee?
Some of the symptoms you may feel in addition to knee pain may include joint pain, stiffness and swelling; as well as weakness in the ligaments and muscles around your knee. These can contribute to a reduction in your mobility. If you are experiencing these symptoms talk to your health care professional to see if you may have meniscal degeneration.
What do I talk about to my doctor if I have knee pain?
What to tell your doctor?
Note down any relevant history and current complaints before visiting the doctor, that way you’re more likely to mention everything you need to.
- When it started
- What makes it worse/better
- How it effects your lifestyle
- Any previous injuries you think may be a factor
What to ask your doctor
Be sure your doctor gives you all relevant information during your visit to help you alleviate your knee pain.
- Could this be OA or meniscus degeneration? If so, is it uni-compartmental (one side of the knee) or bi-compartmental (both sides of the knee)?
- How can I reduce the pain?
- Could a knee brace that unloads the affected area help?
- Do I need any tests or scans, e.g. x-rays?
- Should I take medication?
- Do I need to change any of my activities?
- Is there anything more I can do?
Where to next
Also think about any other lifestyle changes that now might help to ease the pain and get you more active again.
Appointments: Getting a brace
Getting an Unloader brace is a relatively straightforward process. You can get clarification on insurance coverage or any potential cost prior to making any commitments.
What steps should I follow to get an Unloader brace?
1. Get diagnosed
The very first thing you need to do is have a proper diagnosis of your condition; a prerequisite for any treatment. Contact your doctor and prepare yourself for the appointment
2. Get fitted
Once diagnosed, contact us to find your nearest fitting centre where a certified professional can fit you with the right brace. If symptoms persist consult your health care professional.
3. Get Active
Also think about any other lifestyle changes that now might help to ease the pain and get you more active again. The Unloader features a 30-day satisfaction period.
Braces: Why and how to use
An Unloader brace that has been correctly fit by a practitioner is easy to maintain, and when used properly can alleviate pain caused by knee osteoarthritis (OA).
How many hours per day should I wear my Unloader brace initially?
It is recommended that you build up the time spent wearing the brace gradually during the first three weeks. In the first week, two hours per day is the recommended length of time. In the second week, you can start to wear your brace for up to four hours per day. By the third week, you can wear your brace for six to eight hours per day, or as needed.
Your practitioner can explain more when fitting the Unloader, and you will receive a patient guide to take home with you.
If you've been fitted with an Unloader One knee brace, please refer to the online patient guide for additional information.
Going forward, how long should I use my Unloader brace for?
This will depend on many factors. Some individuals wear their brace to remain active and delay the need for surgery as long as possible, while others wear it to become healthier surgical candidates. Talk to your doctor about your aspirations and goals for the use of your Unloader brace.
How do Unloader braces work?
Unloader braces unload the affected, painful side of the knee using a 3-Point Leverage System and are proven to reduce pain and improve function. Some patients also report a reduction in pain medication. Unloading can help to relieve the pain, allowing you to walk normally and more frequently.
Do the Unloader braces come in different colors?
Unloader One and Unloader One knee braces (sizes XS-XL) are available in the default black color.
Unloader One Custom and Unloader Custom braces are available in 12 standard colors (see below) or a choice of various designs.
Unloader custom colors
The standard version of Rebound DUAL brace (sizes XS-3XL) comes in a default black frame with metallic silver liner. Rebound DUAL Custom is available with a choice of five frame colors and five liner colors.
Rebound DUAL custom colors
There may be an additional fee for custom colors. Talk to your practitioner first to check your insurance cover and potential costs. Custom designs sometimes necessitate additional manufacturing time.
Can I work out in an Unloader brace?
Yes, the goal of an Unloader brace is to keep you active and help you return to the activities you enjoy. It is recommended that you wear your Unloader brace during periods of activity, whether it be sport, work or everyday activities.
Will an Unloader brace fit under my clothing?
Yes, all Unloader braces are carefully designed to sit comfortably against the skin and underneath clothing. By wearing it on the skin (i.e. not over your clothes), it stays in place and therefore works effectively.
Are there reimbursement options available for Unloader knee braces?
When fitted by a registered fitting provider, the cost of the knee brace may be funded through private health insurance. The level of funding is dependent upon your cover and can be confirmed with your insurance provider.
Funding for osteoarthritis braces may also be provided to eligible candidates under workers compensation, transport accident, Veteran’s Affairs and other government funding schemes. Ask your fitting centre for further details.
What is the warranty for Össur Unloader braces?
The frame and hinges on the Unloader knee braces have a 2-year warranty, and the soft goods liners and straps have a 6-month warranty.
Please note the Unloader One Lite brace has a 14-day satisfaction guarantee, and the Unloader One and Unloader One X braces has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee (excludes consulting fees).