Lower back pain is probably the number one ailment that causes missed work days among North American adults. Given this unfortunate fact, many of us may have asked at one time or another “Can a back brace help lower back pain?” In this article, we look at how wearing various types of back brace can help ease this potentially severe and debilitating source of pain. We will focus on:
- How wearing a back brace for the lower back can help ease lower back pain by supporting the lumbar spine;
- How wearing a posture brace can improve posture and reduce the strain on the lower back; and
- How wearing a rigid or semi rigid back brace can stabilize the spinal vertebrae and provide relief from conditions such as a herniated disc.
Wear A Back Belt To Support The Lumbar Spine
Wearing a brace for the lower back (or back belt) can help to keep your lumbar spine straight and reduce the risk of lower back strains or other similar injuries. This is particularly true when you are trying to lift a heavy load.
Many people make the mistake of bending the spine when performing this activity, instead of keeping the spine straight and bending at the knees instead. This can easily lead to back or core muscle strains. Back muscle strains in particular are among the leading causes of chronic back pain.
The back belt constrains the spine and helps to prevent twisting the spinal column or bending forward, backward or sideways. This means that it prompts you to bend at the knees when lifting .It reduces pressure on the back and other core muscles and lowers the risk of injuring these muscles.
For this reason, back belt use is widespread in industries like household moving or baggage handling, in which workers frequently have to lift heavy objects. It plays a major role in reducing the incidence of chronic back pain in these industries.
Many lower back braces can also be worn with lumbar supports (e.g. the BioSkin lumbar support). These supports can help to further stabilize the spine and prevent it twisting or bending when lifting. The result is a further reduction in the risk of a back strain.
Wear An Upper Back Brace To Improve Posture
Upper back braces, otherwise known as posture braces, have become increasingly popular in recent years. This is a response to the growing recognition that much of the chronic back pain experienced by individuals comes from poor postural habits.
Examples of poor posture practices include:
- Maintaining rounded and elevated shoulders accompanied by pushing the head forward (hunched shoulders);
- Tilting the hips forward;
- A protruding stomach.
Taken together, these habits can produce excessive lower back inward curvature or lordosis. Many of us tend particularly to adopt this type of posture after long periods of standing or sitting.
The effect of these postural habits is to increase the pressure borne by the lumbar spine due to the weight of the head and upper body. This weight is obviously borne all day long, which can lead to muscle tension and lower back pain due to overuse of the muscles in that region.
Posture braces help to reduce (but not completely eliminate) lower back curvature. They gently remind us to keep the upper back straight and maintain square shoulders. The result is a restoration of normal lower back curvature and less strain on the lumbar spine.
This in turn means that we face less risk of experiencing chronic back pain, particularly in the lower back. An upper back brace is often a relatively trivial investment in reducing pain throughout one’s life.
Wear A Rigid Back Brace To Relieve Chronic Back Pain
If you are suffering from back problems such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, a back brace may be prescribed for pain relief. These conditions are the source of much of the chronic pain that North American results experience in the region of the back.
Both conditions can cause vertebral discs to be come damaged and press on nerve roots adjacent to the spine. The result can be pain in the lower back. The pain can in some cases radiate to other areas such as the buttocks or legs.
Rigid back braces have layers of sturdy material that wraps around the torso. They also have rigid panels that cover the rear (and sometimes the front also) of the torso. These panels can stabilize the damaged vertebral discs and reduce the extent to which they impinge on adjacent nerve roots.
As a result, the use of a rigid back brace can reduce chronic back pain. You can read more about this here.
Although using a back brace is one treatment option for back pain relief as described above, physical therapy is also usually a key part of the treatment plan.
Back braces can play a key role in reducing back pain. We would nevertheless advise seeking medical advice before deciding to wear one. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the cause of your back pain and decide which type of brace, if any, will benefit you. She will also be able to devise a comprehensive treatment plan that may include the use of physical therapy as well as other treatment options.