The majority of people in the world will experience back pain in their lives. On a scale of 1 to 10, lower back pain can register somewhere between "I need an aspirin" to “please jack me up with morphine.”
Those suffering from such discomfort might feel moderate to mild pain that is not debilitating. In severe cases, they could feel like a giant electrified claw has claimed the lower part of their back, tearing into each nerve in that part of the body. The smallest of movements – getting up from a chair, walking or even coughing – can feel torturous. Maybe the lower back is as stiff as hardened concrete and as sensitive as an exposed nerve.
While many causes of back pain include injury and disorders, a shocking number of back pain cases range from improper lifting and bad posture. The simple solution when feeling an ache is to pop a pill. That’s just the normal routine, right? But have you ever thought to consider that for your back pain there might be a better way to find long-lasting relief?
A lower back brace can be an effective element of a comprehensive treatment plan for certain spinal conditions, and can provide support for the spine as it heals following back surgery.
Also called a lumbosacral orthosis, or LSO, a back brace may be prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter. Nonprescription braces are available without a doctor’s recommendation
A simple lumbar support device, or back brace can provide relief, research shows, according to an analysis of 28 studies published in the September 2016 issue of the Annals of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine journal. In the 2016 meta-analysis, researchers concluded that lumbar support devices are useful for improving function and reducing pain among those suffering from subacute back pain, which means it's past the acute stage – which is sudden and short in duration – but not long-lasting enough to be chronic.
How Back Braces Can Help
Provide additional spinal support
A back brace can add stability when the low back is unstable due to injured or weakened spinal structures. By holding the torso in a safe, supportive posture, a back brace can help provide a healthy healing environment for the current injury and prevent additional injuries.
Reduce pressure on the spinal structures
“Lumbar support devices provide enough compression and support for the lower back to allow healing to occur,” says Christopher Cousins, a physical therapist based in the District of Columbia.
“The compression on the abdomen means there’s less pressure on your lower back discs, ligaments, muscles and spine to allow healing to occur and offer more stabilization.”
Reduce range of motion during healing
A back brace is used to prevent or restrict painful movements, such as twisting the spine or bending forward, backward, or to the side. Limiting painful movements and postures can also help improve awareness of the body’s positioning (proprioception), which allows the wearer to consciously adjust posture for improved back health.
Reduce micro-motion between vertebral segments
Braces also limit excess micro-movements at a particular spinal segment or vertebral fracture, thereby limiting pain from muscle tension and irritated joints or nerve roots.
Lower back support back braces are able to improve functionality and reduce pain, allowing users to move around. People who suffer mild to moderate subacute back pain should put on a back brace as soon as their discomfort sets in, says Scott Bautch, a chiropractor in Wasau, Wisconsin, and president of the American Chiropractic Association's council on occupational health. "You want to give yourself bracing so you can move," Bautch says. "Inactivity or immobilization is the worst thing for a back. You want to remain active, and a brace can help you do that." By wearing a device made of soft, supportive materials you should be able to regain mobility without the use of mind-altering pain pills.
How To Properly Use Your Back Brace:
1. If you have severe pain, see a physician quickly.
If your back pain or stiffness is so bad you can't move without tremendous discomfort, see a doctor as soon as possible, to receive a proper diagnosis. With the right tests and procedures, your doctor will be able to determine the cause of the pain, rule out serious conditions, and to create a treatment plan. Your doctor will tell you if a back brace will be an effective option or not.
2. Don’t Rely On Your Brace Alone
Realize that for lower back pain wearing a brace is only one of the steps necessary for strengthening your core muscles to support your spine. Physical therapy, stretching, yoga, and light exercise may provide relief.
3. Get The Correct Size
Finding a back brace that properly fits is crucial for comfort and support. While most braces are adjustable to contour to a variety of shapes and sizes, make sure yours fits before purchasing it. It needs to naturally contour and fit, kind of like a glove, so all surface areas are in contact with your back. It should help remind you to keep good posture. The device should be snug, but not too tight. It shouldn’t constrict your breathing. Refer to sizing charts online or try one on in the store.
4. Get Your Back Brace Through Insurance
Back braces and other medical equipment may be covered through insurance!
5. Don’t Overuse Your Brace
If you wear your back brace for more than a few hours a day or continuously for more than two weeks your back muscles weaken as your back begins to rely on the brace. Strengthening your core muscles is crucial for healing to avoid becoming dependent on your back brace. Follow your doctor’s instructions for use and daily exercise.
6. Take Your Time
Don’t try to speed up your recovery process by biting off more than you can chew. Your brace will not allow you to exceed your physical limitations. Lifting a heavy box or repeated motions such as pulling weeds could re-injure your back if you aren’t strong enough to return to these types of activities. Take your time and work with your physical therapist to determine your strength and limits as you rebuild your core.