Do Back Braces Work?

Lower back pain is a common concern among adults, especially those with heavy lifting jobs. You might see workers at your local home improvement store wearing lumbar support bands—“back support” braces. These devices are also becoming increasingly popular for the rest of us.

But do they work?

A brace is especially helpful after a spinal injury or in cases of disk degeneration, and sometimes, an orthopedic surgeon will prescribe a special brace after surgery. However, 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 because they “remind” the wearer to engage the core muscles harnessing the brace. 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 provide some relief and support in the short term.

Strengthening Internal Brace

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.

You will be trained to find and maintain your “neutral spine” position through an effective physical therapy program focusing on lumbar stability. 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 injuries such as muscle strain and torn ligaments
  • Help you avoid future injury from repetitive movement, sudden motion, or stress

If you have been wearing a back brace for a long time, make an appointment with us. We will prescribe exercises to strengthen your back and allow you to wear it without restriction.

Learn more about STARS Physical Therapy Services.

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