Assistive devices

Many people with knee osteoarthritis use assistive devices as part of their overall self-management. Assistive devices are walking equipment, or braces that are used to help with movement or reduce pain during movement. Some people will use devices all the time (e.g. using a walking stick regularly), and some people will only occasionally rely on devices (e.g. using Nordic walking poles for bush walking or using a knee brace during exercise). This section was created to provide you information on this topic.


Let’s watch our video with Ali Gibbs, a specialist physiotherapist and knee osteoarthritis researcher, who will explain the role of assistive devices for people with osteoarthritis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There is no exact answer to this. In general a walking stick is recommended if you feel unsteady on your feet, even on uneven ground. Some people will need a walking stick all the time and others may need it for longer walks or for periods where symptoms are flared-up.

People usually use walking poles to assist them on longer hikes or on particularly uneven ground. Nordic walking poles are a great way to burn more calories on longer walks too! You work harder but walking feels easier – which is great!

If you have any queries about whether you need a device to help your walking then speak to your healthcare professional (e.g. physiotherapist or occupational therapist) for advice. Click here to go to our ‘find a healthcare professional‘ page (opens in new tab).

It is recommended that if you are using one walking stick only, that you hold it on the opposite side to the knee that causes you the most issues. For example if your right knee is painful you should hold the stick in your left side. This way, every time you take weight onto your rightleg, you can take some weight through the stick too.

Braces and supports are very varied. You can get over the counter neoprene braces or expensive custom-fit supports. Some people find them useful to control symptoms, whereas other people find they make no difference.

Unfortunately it requires lots of trial and error involved in finding out whether one may help you. Speak with your healthcare professional for more information.

Many people find that inexpensive neoprene supports help them psychologically to feel like their leg is being more supported during activity.

Ensure that you get a support that fits correctly and is not too tight. If in doubt, speak to your healthcare practitioner. Click here to go to our ‘find a healthcare professional‘ page (opens in new tab).

It’s important to make sure that they are not too tight and cutting off circulation to your lower leg. Some of the bulkier supports can cause discomfort or limit your movement that forces you to change the way you do simple tasks.

If in doubt, speak with your healthcare practitioner. Click here to go to our ‘find a healthcare professional‘ page (opens in new tab).

What have those living with knee osteoarthritis got to say?

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