Do Knee Sleeves Work?

Man putting on knee sleeve

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If you live an active lifestyle, minor pains are somewhat inevitable. That's just part of physical exercise! But that doesn't mean you have to live with any aches or pains that come along. One of the most common pains athletes and gym-goers alike experience is knee pain.

The big culprits of knee pain include running, hiking, jumpings, squatting, and lunges. You might experience injury from these movements, or pain may also be caused by biomechanical issues (the function and motion of the knee), wear-and-tear over time, or even arthritis.

Knee issues vary in level of seriousness, but for minor issues, small precautions can go a long way.

One popular remedy many athletes often turn to for help? A knee sleeve.

What Is a Knee Sleeve?

A knee sleeve is a supportive fabric that slides onto your leg and over your knee to provide support to your knee and surrounding joints. Knee sleeves can come in many different sizes and thicknesses, and they can typically fit under clothing.

When purchasing a knee sleeve, it’s important to keep in mind the tightness of compression. It should feel supportive, but not too tight or restricting, which can limit your range of motion, putting more strain on your joints.

Compression from the sleeves can improve blood flow and oxygen to the muscle tissues in the injured area, which promotes a speedy and efficient recovery time. It may also help reduce swelling around the knee.

You might also come across knee braces in your search for the perfect sleeve. Knee braces are more structurally sound and provide more support, but they can also be more cumbersome. Keep this in mind as you choose which style of knee support is right for you.

When Should You Use a Knee Sleeve?

Any activity that poses added resistance, such as strength training or running, to your knee can warrant the use of a knee sleeve. In addition, runners who wear compression sleeves may improve their performance output due to improved running economy and biomechanical variables. They may also benefit from reduced muscle pain and inflammation.

The frequency in which you use a knee sleeve will be different depending on the type of pain or injury you're experiencing. A good first step is to experiment with wearing a knee sleeve—see how it feels as you move. It may feel odd at first, but your body will soon grow accustomed to exercising with the added support.

When to Seek Additional Care

If your knee is inflamed or sore in an acute capacity and you’re looking for added support during squats or on a run, a knee sleeve may come in handy. It's also common for individuals to wear a knee compression sleeve as they recover from a difficult procedure like ACL surgery.

If knee pain is persistent and/or worsens, reach out to an orthopedic specialist. They might recommend that you get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to further investigate the issue.

A Word From Verywell

The knees are one of the most easily injured joints in the body, so it’s good to have a knee compression sleeve on hand if you are prone to knee injury or are active in exercises that place a higher impact on your knee joints.

While these sleeves can be an excellent resource to keep your knees secure, but they do not always solve pains or issues you may be experiencing. Speak to a health care professional if you have any questions about your physical health or if knee pain persists.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Joint pain: symptoms, causes, and treatment. Cleveland Clinic. 2018.

  2. Cudejko T, van der Esch M, van der Leeden M, et al. The immediate effect of a soft knee brace on pain, activity limitations, self-reported knee instability, and self-reported knee confidence in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Res Ther. 2017;19:260. doi:10.1186/s13075-017-1456-0

  3. Coza A, Dunn J, Anderson B, Nigg B. Effects of Compression on Muscle Tissue Oxygenation at the Onset of Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318254885b

  4. Engel FA, Holmberg H-C, Sperlich B. Is there evidence that runners can benefit from wearing compression clothing? Sports Med. 2016;46(12):1939-1952. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5

  5. Kuster MS, Grob K, Kuster M, Wood GA, Gächter A. The benefits of wearing a compression sleeve after ACL reconstructionMed Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31(3):368-371. doi:10.1097/00005768-199903000-00003.

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By Ashley Macha
Ashley's decade-plus of experience leading social media initiatives for health systems and health publications has provided her with a deep understanding of providing best practices and thought leadership to clients.