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If you suffer from lower back pain, you’ve probably tried a million and one products to improve things. However, a back brace might aid in pain control as well as helping in the recovery. If you need to purchase a back brace for lower back pain, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. This guide will explain everything you need to know.
What Does a Back Brace Do?
A back brace is a device that is worn around the back which offers support and, some believe, relief from pain.
There are different types of back brace; those that are custom made and those that can be purchased ready-made and that you can wear off the shelf. Custom made back braces offer more personal support as they must be fitted and molded to your unique body shape.
There are several things that wearing a back brace might do. In studies, there is little evidence to suggest that a back brace can bring relief from muscular pain. That said, a lot of people swear by their back brace for this very reason. If you find that wearing a back brace offers you relief then there’s no reason you shouldn’t.
Back braces may reduce the pressure on the spine and its structures, removing weight which is normally placed on the low back. As this weight is removed, the rest of the spine benefits from relief, including the discs, muscles and joints. As a result of this, you may experience less pain.
It is also possible that a back brace will provide extra support to your spine, making it more stable. This is useful if you have suffered an injury that has weakened your spinal structure. But with the back brace keeping everything in place and improving your posture, it may be possible that your injury heals more rapidly, and there is less risk of additional injuries.
Some people suffer from irritated joints and nerves in the spine owing to micro-movements between the vertebrae. However, a back brace may be able to reduce these movements, which can limit the amount of pain the wearer experiences.
Finally, a back brace can be used to reduce your range of motion when you are healing from an injury. When you do things like bending or twisting, this can cause a lot of pain, but the back brace will limit your motion, therefore preventing any discomfort.
Are Back Braces Any Good for Lower Back Pain?
There has been some research into whether back braces are good for lower back pain, but the results are quite inconclusive. That said, there is some suggestion that using a back brace may provide you with relief during pregnancy. If back braces are worn in short bursts for pelvic pain in pregnant women, there is some evidence to show this to be effective. However, further research needs to be undertaken to confirm this.
There have also been some studies that demonstrate that the use of a Lumbotrain back brace may reduce healing time by as much as two to four days.
While results may be inconclusive, there is research to suggest that lumbar support can have a positive effect on patients that need to reduce the pressure load on the spine. As a direct result of this, a back brace may provide relief from conditions such as herniated discs, sprains, and chronic back pain, among others.
For sufferers of lower back pain, a back brace may help by providing additional support for the spine as well as relieving pressure. These back braces can also help to improve your posture which is a common cause of back pain. However, as we have mentioned, there is still not enough scientific evidence to prove that back braces are 100% effective so it’s really a matter of personal choice.
Some people find that wearing a back brace is uncomfortable or irritating, in which case, you might not benefit from one.
Types of Back Braces for Lower Back Pain
Depending on the level of back pain you are experiencing, there are different types of back brace. For more severe pain, it’s common to choose a rigid back brace that offers a more intense level of support.
For patients that are recovering from injury or surgery, a doctor might prescribe a back brace to aid in recovery. However, you will need to work closely with your doctor to decide which is the correct type of back brace for your particular needs.
Similar to a corset or girdle, a flexible back brace is designed to help when lifting as well as to improve your posture. These back braces are made from flexible materials like nylon or elasticated cotton and allow as good as normal movement.
A semi-rigid brace is a more specific type of back brace that is typically prescribed when a patient has undergone spinal fusion. These are post-operative braces designed to aid in your recovery. Semi-rigid braces combine the benefits of both rigid and flexible back braces.
Rigid back braces will improve stability in the spine and are often prescribed for lower back pain. While there is some flexible material within these belts, they also feature hard inserts and more detailed support that often spreads past the lumbar region and onto the thoracic region.
How to Properly Wear a Back Brace
If you want to get the most out of your back brace then it is essential to wear it correctly. Fortunately, most back braces can be worn in the same way, and putting them on is relatively simple.
Before you put on your back brace, there are some preparations you will need to make. If you feel as though you might struggle to get the brace on by yourself, do ask for help.
- Choose a breathable, cotton T-shirt to wear underneath your back brace as this will lessen any skin irritation.
- Before putting the back brace on, make sure that the skin is clean. Wearing a back brace every day can irritate the skin, causing red marks and blisters. However, if you keep the skin clean, this will be less likely.
- You can use rubbing alcohol in areas where the back brace applies a lot of pressure as this will help to make your skin more resistant.
- Do not use any creams or lotions under the brace as this moisture could make you more prone to blisters.
- You’re now ready to put the back brace on. Start by wrapping the brace around your back. The two wings should be at your sides.
- Bring the two ends of the brace around your front and connect them across your abdomen.
- There will be two pull tabs on either side of the brace which you can use to make adjustments to the tightness and pressure of the brace. Do this according to your own needs.
How Long Should You Wear a Back Brace for Lower Back Pain?
One of the main things to think about when choosing how long to wear a back brace for is the advice given to you by your doctor. While articles like this one can provide you with general advice, your personal, tailored care should always take priority.
However, you have to also consider that long-term use of a back brace may actually do more harm than good. In fact, wearing a back brace over the long term could result in conditions like muscle atrophy as well as coming to rely on the brace. In turn, you may experience weakness in the muscles and further pain.
Normally, you would start by wearing your back brace for no more than 15-30 minutes a day. You can then increase this by five minutes a day to get your body used to it. That said, some people might only need to wear the back brace when doing physical activities for additional support and pain relief.
If you suffer from back pain when you are resting then a back brace is not the right option and you should speak to your doctor about alternative treatment.
How to Clean a Back Brace
When you get your back brace, it will come with instructions on how to keep it clean. It’s best to follow these.
As a general rule of thumb, we would advise washing your back brace at least once a day. You can use regular soap and water to remove marks, stains, and odors. However, most back braces aren’t machine washable so you will need to do this by hand.
As well as this, it is good practice to clean the back brace using rubbing alcohol once a week. You can apply this using a clean cotton ball, and the product will remove any soap build-up or bacteria.
If the back brace accumulates debris like hair or fluff then you can remove this using a lint roller which is quick and easy.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Back Brace for Lower Back Pain
No two cases of back pain will be exactly the same so a back brace that works well for me might not work as well for you. For this reason, it’s not always best to just choose the first generic back brace you find and you should never opt for a cheap product just to save money. Here are some factors we would urge you to consider before settling on the right back brace for you.
Level of Support
Choosing the right level of support is imperative when selecting a back brace. if you don’t get it right then you won’t reap the benefits of these devices.
There are typically three levels of support; rigid, semi-rigid, and flexible.
Rigid back braces offer a higher level of stability if you are suffering with more severe pain. They’re very good for things like fractures and when recovering from a serious injury. On the other hand, a flexible back brace is much softer and used to prevent you moving too much with a gentle level of compression.
Semi-rigid back braces have features that are somewhere between the former two. They are flexible enough that they don’t completely limit your movement but have rigid inserts for added stability.
There are also back braces with targeted support. Some are designed just for the lower back but there are others that can also help to target other parts of the back such as the shoulders. If you have more complex pain needs then this may be something to consider.
Back braces tend to come in a one-size-fits-all design. The tabs on the sides allow you to adjust the brace to fit you correctly. However, there are custom back braces which can be molded to your body and provide the best fit.
Depending on the type of back brace you have, it may be made from different materials. In any case, you should make sure that the materials feel comfortable on the skin and do not cause irritation.
Flexible back braces are normally made from things like neoprene, cotton or polyester. They’ll usually have mesh panels to make them more breathable without taking away from the level of support.
If you’re using a rigid back brace then this will typically be made from plastic, leather, or metal.