Do Back Braces Help?
When you have back pain, It is frustrating, and can be debilitating.
Many people will try all sorts of things to get better. I do not blame anyone for trying.
Lately I have seen a lot of advertisements for various back braces. Patient’s ask whether they should buy these braces.
So what is the bottom line about the use of a back brace for pain?
If you have a broken back, a back brace can help prevent excessive movement that will increase your pain. But these braces are very rigid, and sometimes need to be made custom fit for your body type. Depending on the type of break, back brace can be very useful for your pain control and recovery.
If you have a back pain from a pulled muscle, or tendon, it is not so clear that a back brace would be beneficial.
Despite various scientific studies on the use of back braces and corsets for chronic back pain, few studies have identified long term benefits from use.
One study looked at the long term effects of exercise, with and without back bracing and found no difference.
Another study compared exercise vs the use of a back brace for chronic pain, found no clear advantage to either approach.
So what is the answer?
It depends. Many people do feel some comfort associated with the use of a back corset. The feeling of compression, along with the reminder to be deliberate in movement may provide some transient benefit.
However, when comparing for better function, and better long term increase of activity, bracing has not been shown to be better.
I guess it comes down to the individual. If the short term benefit is worth the cost of the brace, by all means, get the brace.
Long term, if there is no added difference to your function, it may not be worth the cost.
It is your choice. The good news is that a lumbar brace will not cause you any long term harm. Theoretically, over use of a back brace can lead to some back muscle weakening. In practicality, that has not been proven.
It’s your back. It’s your decision. It’s your money.
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- Zoia C, Bongetta D, Alicino C, Chimenti M, Pugliese R, Gaetani P. Usefulness of corset adoption after single-level lumbar discectomy: a randomized controlled trial. J Neurosurg Spine. 2018 May;28(5):481-485. PubMed PMID: 29424674
- Kawchuk GN, Edgecombe TL, Wong AY, Cojocaru A, Prasad N. A non-randomized clinical trial to assess the impact of nonrigid, inelastic corsets on spine function in low back pain participants and asymptomatic controls. Spine J. 2015 Oct 1;15(10):2222-7. PubMed PMID: 26101179
- Aleksiev AR. Ten-year follow-up of strengthening versus flexibility exercises with or without abdominal bracing in recurrent low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2014 Jun 1;39(13):997-1003. PubMed PMID: 24732860
Last modified: June 30, 2020