While a brace might not allow you to engage in athletic activities at your previous level, medical research supports the effectiveness of bracing for managing osteoarthritis of the knee. In some patients, bracing significantly reduces pain, increases function, and reduces excessive loading to the damaged compartment. The most common braces used for the treatment of knee arthritis are knee immobilizers, neoprene sleeves, and unloader braces. An immobilizer may be useful to rest an acutely inflamed arthritic knee, but motion should be started as soon as possible to prevent muscle weakness. Although it provides little or no mechanical support, a neoprene sleeve may improve proprioception and pain. Unloader braces, which are designed to reduce the load on a particular area of the knee, have been shown to reduce pain and improve function in many patients. Neoprene sleeves are relatively inexpensive and comfortable, so you might try one of those first. The more specialized unloader braces are expensive and somewhat bulky and should be fitted by an experienced orthotist, but they have been shown to be effective in about 75 percent of patients who wear them.