Objective: To develop clinical practice guidelines concerning the use of bracing--rest orthosis, knee sleeves and unloading knee braces--for knee osteoarthritis.
Methods: The French Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Society (SOFMER) methodology, associating a systematic literature review, collection of everyday clinical practice, and external review by multidisciplinary expert panel, was used.
Results: Few high-level studies of bracing for knee osteoarthritis were found. No evidence exists for the effectiveness of rest orthosis. Evidence for knee sleeves suggests that they decrease pain in knee osteoarthritis, and their use is associated with subjective improvement. These actions do not appear to depend on a local thermal effect. The effectiveness of knee sleeves for disability is not demonstrated for knee osteoarthritis. Short- and mid-term follow-up indicates that valgus knee bracing decreases pain and disability in medial knee osteoarthritis, appears to be more effective than knee sleeves, and improves quality of life, knee proprioception, quadriceps strength, and gait symmetry, and decreases compressive loads in the medial femoro-tibial compartment. However, results of response to valgus knee bracing remain inconsistent; discomfort and side effects can result. Thrombophlebitis of the lower limbs has been reported with the braces. Braces, whatever kind, are infrequently prescribed in clinical practice for osteoarthritis of the lower limbs.
Conclusion: Modest evidence exists for the effectiveness of bracing--rest orthosis, knee sleeves and unloading knee braces--for knee osteoarthritis, with only low level recommendations for its use. Braces are prescribed infrequently in French clinical practice for osteoarthritis of the knee. Randomized clinical trials concerning bracing in knee osteoarthritis are still necessary.