PT eDigest

PTD1214_BackLower back pain is a common concern among adults, especially those whose jobs involve heavy lifting. You might see workers at your local home improvement store wearing lumbar support bands—“back support” braces. These devices are becoming increasingly popular for the rest of us, as well. But do they really work?

A brace is especially helpful after a spinal injury or in cases of disk degeneration, and sometimes an orthopedic surgeon will prescribe use of a special brace after surgery. But these types of lumbar support are not the same as those typically available at your local pharmacy or sporting goods store. The store-bought braces, usually made of neoprene with Velcro straps or buckles, are designed to act as an external version of the abdominal muscles, providing added support to the spine.

These braces can be useful in that they “remind” the wearer to engage the core muscles that the brace is harnessing. But those same muscles can become lazy because their job is being done for them. That is why long-term use of back braces is not advisable, even if they do provide some relief and support in the short term.

Rather than relying on a brace, why not let us help you strengthen your internal “brace”—the muscles that support the intricate workings of the spine? If you have already become dependent on a brace, we can help wean you off the device by working the weakened muscles and having you wear the brace for increasingly shorter amounts of time until you no longer need it.

Through an effective physical therapy program focusing on lumbar stability, you will be trained to find and maintain your “neutral spine” position. The back muscles can then be exercised to teach the spine to stay in this position. This program of lumbar stabilization will:

  • help relieve the nuisance of lower back pain

  • help you gain control over the movements of your spine and the forces that act on it

  • help heal soft tissue injury such as muscle strain and torn ligaments

  • help you avoid future injury from repetitive movement or sudden motion or stress

If you have been wearing a back brace for a long time, make an appointment with us. We will prescribe a series of exercises that will make your back strong and brace-free.

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