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When do you need a back brace? & Which back brace do doctors recommend? & Why?

Man holding low back in pain while doing desk job.

Consultation with a doctor is recommended before using a back brace. A doctor’s evaluation will help determine whether a brace is likely to be beneficial, as well as the type of brace needed and how it should be worn.

It is important to remember that back braces are prescribed as one aspect of a comprehensive treatment program and that wearing a brace on its own or wearing a brace not according to a doctor’s recommendation may cause further injury and increased pain.

Conditions That Can Benefit from Bracing

In addition to other nonsurgical treatments, a back brace may help heal and relieve pain from the following conditions:

Factors for Bracing Success

Some known factors that contribute to bracing success include:


Would Wearing Back Brace Weaken Spinal Muscles?

Although this is something that you may hear often, wearing a back brace would likely only ever cause weakness if you put the back brace on, lie down, and did nothing for long periods of time. In fact, if putting a back brace on allows your patient to be up walking for longer periods, doing activities that they would not be able to do otherwise, this is a positive move towards recovery. The main thing that is very important when using/wearing a back brace is that the patient is given an EXERCISE PROGRAM for strengthening and stretching to do in addition to wearing the brace.

Keeping the core musculature that supports the spine strong and flexible is important whether the patient's back is injured or not injured. The exercise program becomes VITAL when wearing a back brace.

Benefits of Bracing a Patient with Low Back Pain

Many back injuries or back conditions end up in a revolving circle of inflammation and muscle spasm due to an acute injury or a chronic condition that flare-up. Although the causes of back pain are varied, because of the anatomy and function demanded of our spinal column, bracing is a good choice for conservative treatment.

When there is back pain (no matter what the cause) the reaction of the spinal musculature is to contract into involuntary spasm or voluntary contraction of the muscles to protect the injured or inflamed joint or soft tissue structure(s). The muscles often go into “overdrive” with good intentions of protecting the spine. In effect, what happens is the vicious circle of pain and spasm begins.

There are several ways to break that vicious circle: physiotherapy (including ice, heat, modalities, stretching, strengthening, manual therapy, etc.) And, as an external stabilizer: a back brace.


Can a Patient Become Too Reliant on a Brace?

This question brings us back to the importance of maintaining core musculature by maintaining an exercise program. If your patient does wear the back brace and allows the back brace to do ALL the work ALL the time, then you may be asking for trouble. But by incorporating other forms of treatment and therapy into the patient's plan for care, which would assist in rehabilitating your patient, the likeliness of a patient wanting to continue wearing the brace would be low since it would no longer be necessary for them to comfortably perform their daily functions.

Goals and Mechanisms of Back Bracing for Pain Relief

A back-bracing prescription usually has a few complementary goals:

It is important to recognize that a back brace is almost never a permanent part of a treatment plan. A lumbar brace is typically prescribed to be worn for a certain number of hours each day, and the regimen may range from a couple of days to several weeks. The time frame for bracing is outlined and monitored by the physician to limit dependence on the brace, prevent muscle atrophy, and mitigate other negative effects of prolonged use while ensuring maximum effectiveness.

The bottom line is if you are a patient experiencing low back pain or maybe have already been diagnosed with a disc-related condition it is best to see a physician like Dr. Casey Walker to see if your condition may benefit from a back brace. To book our new patient special click here or call our office at 219-696-8916.



Casey Walker, D.C. Casey Walker, D.C. is the founder of R2 Wellness Centers a chiropractic clinic, family-owned and operated in Lowell, Indiana. R2 Wellness Centers mission is, to create health within so that you can live your life free from pain and suffering, Live Your Life, Today. He has been practicing chiropractic since graduating from Palmer Chiropractic in Davenport, IA in 2005. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, cycling and fly-fishing.

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