Herniated disc injuries are among some of the most widely experienced back disorders suffered today. The commonly accepted remedies for these injuries include using pain killing medication, activity modification and physical therapy. In this article we will investigate the question of whether they can also be treated by wearing a back brace.
What Is A Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc refers to a problem with one or more of the discs that sit between the vertebrae of the spine. The discs serve as shock absorbers. They cushion the vertebrae from the shocks they would normally experience when you walk or run.
The disc has a soft interior with a consistency similar to jelly. This is called the nucleus. It is encased in a tougher rubbery shell called the annulus.
A herniated disk develops when a crack develops in the annulus of the disc. When this happens, some of the jellylike interior will start to leak or push through the crack. Another name for the condition is a slipped disk or ruptured disk.
Typically, the condition develops over time due to wear and tear on the disk. As a result, it is also known as degenerative disc disease.
The herniated disk can sometimes press on one or more nerve roots adjacent to the spine. This in turn can cause you to feel pain in an arm or leg (depending on the location of the slipped disc). You may also feel numbness, tingling and weakness in the part of the body served by the compressed nerve.
Can A Back Brace Help With Degenerative Disc Disease?
We will now outline 4 ways in which a back brace can help to treat a herniated disc condition.
A Rigid Back Brace Can Reduce Spinal Micro Movement
Rigid or semi rigid back braces can help to stabilize the portion of the spine where the ruptured discs are located. They do this by helping to stabilize the spine. They reduce small movements of the spine that may result in further wear and tear of the slipped discs.
A rigid back brace comprises a sturdy layer of material that wraps around the torso. This layer may be made from cotton or canvas. In addition, it will include rigid panels that cover the front and back of the brace. Some will also have rigid panels covering the sides.
The panels of the rigid brace can help to stabilize the spine and reduce the pain and discomfort of a herniated disc.
Semi rigid back braces can also provide spinal stabilization. These braces are made from a layer of a soft material (such as cotton, canvas or neoprene) that wraps around the back. In this regard, they are just like a support belt or flexible back brace.
However, semi rigid braces also include moulded plastic inserts (or stays) that provide additional lumbar support and spinal stabilization. These stays will help to prevent small movements of the spine and reduce the pain of a herniated disc.
A Back Brace Can Reduce Spinal Bending & Twisting
By virtue of its rigid panels, a rigid back brace can limit bending and twisting of the spine. It can also reduce the weight normally borne by the spinal discs during these movements. The result of this is both less wear and tear on the discs and less pain from the injured discs.
A Back Brace Can Provide Warmth To Improve Blood Flow
Many back braces are made from neoprene, a material that naturally retains heat. This has therapeutic benefits as the warmth improves the supply of blood to injured nerves. The improved supply of nutrient rich blood can help to speed recovery. It also helps to reduce any back pain that you may be experiencing due to the herniated disc problem.
Other back braces can accommodate heated gel pads to provide the same benefits. For example, the Baja 627 can accommodate two gel pads for added pain relief and circulatory improvement.These back braces can therefore provide targeted warmth to the injured area. They are therefore a more comfortable option, as back braces that provide warmth due to neoprene enclosure can become a source of discomfort over an extended period. This can detract from patient compliance and therefore from therapeutic effectiveness.
Back Braces Can Supply Compression To The Injured Discs
In addition to warmth, back supports like the Back Flex, Back Plus and Baja can provide targeted compression to the injured discs. Compression will improve blood flow to the area and improve the chances of healing.
The use of compression to treat herniated discs is not however limited to rigid braces such as these. Other supports such as the Back Skin or the McDavid Back Stabilizer, can also provide this feature. However, unlike the Baja, Back Flex and Back Plus, these braces do not provide compression that precisely targets the injured area.
In this post, we have explained how the use of a rigid or semi rigid back brace can help to treat the pain of a herniated disc. However, it is important to note that you should seek medical advice before deciding to wear a back support to treat your herniated disc. Your doctor will be able to advise whether a support will work well in your particular case. She may also be able to provide more detailed advice on the type of brace that is appropriate for you.