Back Braces

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Do Back Braces Really Help?

When recovering from an injury or managing an existing condition you need the right support to gradually regain your function and strength.

One way to do this is with a back brace to give you extra support.

Back braces can be good tools for helping your back improve. For example, if you have a back injury a brace can reduce the amount of strain on your back to allow it to heal faster.

It does this by redistributing the load from the affected area of your back to unaffected parts. This helps remove the pressure on the problem area which can help reduce pain.

However there are pros and cons to wearing a back brace which we will discuss in this ultimate guide. First let’s start with when you should wear a back brace.

The Ultimate Guide To Back Braces

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This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether back brace is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a therapist on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation, this session is only to find out if back brace can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

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The Ultimate Guide To Back Braces

When Should You Wear a Brace?

painhero back bracing

Your doctor or Physio will tell you when to wear a back brace after an accurate diagnosis. A brace provides stability to muscles, ligaments, or bones while you’re still healing from injury.

A back brace for lower back pain can sometimes let you slowly resume certain activities while your injury is healing.

It’s normally used in combination with Physiotherapy and massage therapy. It is also important to know that when dealing with most cases of low back pain, a brace should only sometimes be used temporarily in the early stages of recovery.

The Cons of Wearing a Back Brace

1.) False Sense of Security

You see, when you wear a back brace it’s not addressing the root cause of your pain. If you rely on it too much it can actually reduce function in your lower back muscles over time causing the pain to be worse once you take it off. This may lengthen your recovery.

The reason is when you wear a back brace the ligaments and muscles that support your spine don’t have to work as hard.

Instead wear it only temporarily and find a good Physio to find the root cause of your pain. They can spot muscle weaknesses and joints and tissues that are not being used properly. They can then show you how to learn and relearn to use them the right way.

Back problems can be caused by the following which a Physio can help:

  • Muscle weakness not just in your back.
  • Muscles that are over developed while others are underdeveloped. This causes over compensation which leads to injury.
  • Poor posture habits
  • Excessive tension

2.) Restricts Your Range of Motion

Back braces restrict natural movement patterns which lead to more limitations like the problems mentioned above in #1.

Stretches for upper back tightness courtesy of Peak Health & Performance (Read the caption)

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Find out whether back braces can help you get back to doing the things you love in life. 

The 2 Main Types of Back Braces

There are many different types of back braces however they can mostly be categorized in 2 ways based on their purpose. 

1.) Rehabilitative braces. This is commonly used after surgery or injury. It provides support and compression to reduce swelling.  This type of brace limits your motion to protect the injured area so you can return to some regular activities. It’s used temporarily to allow the injury to fully heal.

2.) Functional Braces – are typically knee braces, ankle braces or elbow braces you see athletics wear. However there are functional back support braces to reduce stress to the injured area, protect you from further injury, and perform specific activities like sports in certain cases.

Try this stretch that helps to reduce stiffness in the low back and hips courtesy of Precision Physiotherapy (Read the caption)

Back Braces may also be helpful for people with back conditions such as:

How To Choose The Right Lower Back Brace For You

First, It’s best to follow the recommendations of your Physiotherapist or Doctor when choosing the right back brace for you. However here are a few tips:

Level of support

Back braces come in many different types. There are rigid, semi-rigid, and flexible ones. 

Rigid back braces provide stability for those with conditions that cause moderate to severe pain and instability such as fractures or other issues caused by traumatic accidents.

Flexible types are what you see mostly on TV. It’s made of softer material that limits excessive movement while providing compression. This offers much more freedom and flexibility than rigid ones.

Semi-rigid braces offer the benefits of both. A flexible brace with rigid panels around the brace.

Size and Fit

Most braces are one size fits all with adjustable velcro to secure a snug fit. You can also get a custom one that’s molded to your body.

Materials

Rigid braces can be made of metal, leather, or moldable plastic. The flexible braces are made of cotton, neoprene or canvas.

Maintenance and Durability

There are braces that are machine washable which makes them easy to maintain. Back braces that use velcro can wear out faster.

How to Wear a Back Brace Correctly

In order for a back brace to be effective you have to wear it the right way.

1.)  How to Put It On Without Straining Your Back

Some back braces can be difficult to remove or put on especially when you have lower back pain. 

If possible, ask a friend or family member to help you.

If you don’t have anyone to help you here’s how to put on a brace yourself without straining your back:

First place the brace vertically on a chair with the wings open. Then sit down in the chair so that both wings of the brace are on both sides of your body. Now stand up while holding each wing and then secure them in place. This helps prevent you from reaching behind your back which can aggravate your back pain more.

2.)  Wear a Shirt

When you wear a shirt underneath your back brace it helps prevent skin irritation. The shirt should be clean, tight fitting, and extend the length of the brace.

3.) Make Sure Your Skin Is Clean

Keeping your skin clean will help you avoid blisters.

4.) Apply Rubbing Alcohol to Prevent Skin Irritation

When you wear a back brace for 2-3 weeks your skin will toughen up where the brace is worn. When this happens it’s good to apply rubbing alcohol to the skin where the brace touches. You only need to do this once your skin toughens up.

5.) Avoid Applying Lotion Underneath The Brace

You want to keep your skin as dry as possible to avoid irritation that can lead to sores. So it’s important to avoid using creams, powders, or lotions underneath the skin where you place the brace.

However, you can use cornstarch during hot days.

6.) Only Wear As Directed

Your doctor or Physiotherapist will tell you how to wear a back brace correctly based on your specific condition. So following their directions is critical for best results.

Different types of back pain courtesy of INNOVA Integrated Wellness Centre (Read the caption)

How To Make Your Back Brace Last As Long As Possible

1.) Use Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol can remove soap residue and prevent bacteria from growing on your brace. Simply take a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol and wipe the back brace once a week. Since rubbing alcohol dries very quickly you can usually put your brace back on after 5 minutes or less.

2.) Check For Wear and Tear

Over time your back brace straps will start to wear. If you have worn straps, tell your Physio or doctor. Straps are inexpensive and can be replaced easily. 

3.) Lint Roller

Velcro straps are great at attracting dirt and debris. So it’s good to use a lint roller to remove these materials from your back brace. This ensures the straps work properly.

To sum everything up a back brace can protect your back from injury or further injury.  It can also allow you to slowly resume certain activities while your injury is healing. However you should only wear it temporarily.  

Causes of back pain courtesy of Toronto Spine & Sports Clinic (Read the caption)

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, if you have back pain that keeps you up at night. A back brace may help prevent aggravating the painful area and help you sleep better.

It’s best to use only for stressful activities and lifting heavier objects. Try not to use it long term and try to wean off of it.

Traditional back braces generally do not help with posture issues. However, wearing a posture brace can work by pulling your shoulders back which makes your posture appear and feel better. However, this only occurs while you wear it. It only addresses one factor of bad posture. For example, forward head carriage, rounded shoulders and pelvic tilting all affect your posture. It is important to move out of these “bad” postures throughout the day.  

Book Your BACK NECK SHOULDER KNEE ELBOW HIP WRIST FOOT Pain Consult

Back brace is one of several possible methods for relieving pain that do not rely on prescription medications and all the side effects and baggage they come with. Not to mention that most drugs can only mask pain, but rarely address root causes. Find a clinic if you are suffering from muscle tightness, soreness, or pain to improve your quality of life, today.