PTD0616_CopperAlthough people have believed in copper’s curative power for arthritis and back pain for thousands of years, no solid scientific evidence proves that copper in bracelets or incorporated in back braces relieves joint or back discomfort. In fact, many studies have demonstrated that copper has no more impact on pain than does a placebo.

A back brace that contains copper may help back pain, but that’s probably because the elastic supports trunk muscles. The copper doesn’t add any benefit. Bracelets and copper-enhanced back braces may seem to fight arthritis because people with back pain and the most common forms of arthritis—including osteoarthritis—experience episodes that wax and wane. When people have painful flare-ups and don a copper bracelet, then feel better several days later, they may think that the bracelet is the reason why. Most likely the flare-up would have subsided on its own.

Also potentially powerful is the placebo effect. It’s been scientifically shown that believing a treatment will work can truly influence how you feel (or how you think you feel), at least in the short term.

While a copper bracelet can’t do any real harm, a back brace actually can―if you wear it excessively. While wearing a back brace during a short strenuous activity provides protection from strain, the artificial support it provides gives your trunk muscles much less to do, meaning long-term use can begin causing those muscles to atrophy, resulting in less core strength. The result: You’ll be even more prone to back injury.

There are many proven options for treating back pain. For starters, you can work on improving your posture, your sleeping position and your core strength—all of which we can help you with. Consider using ice or heat for symptomatic relief, whichever feels better (ice is preferable after an acute injury).

If you have back pain, come see us. We can help you manage your condition and design a physical therapy program to help you feel better while increasing your mobility and flexibility.

Download June PTeDigest