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All About Back Braces

Back braces are often recommended to support the back and limit its movement during an episode of pain or injury. There are various types of back braces and they can have different uses. Some provide support and can be used to treat muscle strains or spine fractures, while others are used to correct an abnormal curvature of the spine. Back braces are also used following spine surgery to support and stabilize the back as it heals.

Back braces are made of cotton or nylon, molded plastic or foam rubber. They may be elastic or custom molded to fit your body and can be worn over your cervical (neck), thoracic (chest) and lumbar (lower) region of the spine.

Back braces may be recommended when pain is chronic and not relieved by rest or medications alone but instead requires external support.

Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine that can lead to back pain. It occurs during the early teen years, mostly in girls. It can be corrected by bracing alone or a combination or surgery and bracing. Stiff bars present within the brace exert pressure on the curved spine to realign it. Braces to correct spine curvature are usually worn all the time including at night.

Braces used to treat spine fractures or following spine surgery consist of rigid plastic molds that are worn over the back and abdomen and connected by Velcro straps. These are usually only worn when you are out of bed. They may be worn for a period of 3 to 6 months to maintain alignment of the spine and limit movement while healing.

Over-the-counter elastic back braces are also available and can be recommended to those involved with heavy lifting and repetitive movement activities to relieve or prevent back pain. Treating back pain with such braces on your own is not advised. You should be evaluated by a doctor or therapist who will advise you on the need for bracing and the right kind of brace for you.

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E. Patrick Curry, MDBoard Certified & Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeon
  • University of Scranton
  • Georgetown University Medical Center
  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • The University of Utah