Back Brace Benefits

Back BraceLow back pain is one of the most prevalent conditions treated in physical therapy. It is estimated that 80% of adults will experience some level of low back pain during their lives (Schroeder, Rossler, Ziehe, Higuchi, 1986). Low back pain can occur for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, disc disorder, muscle strain, spinal stenosis, arthritis, and scoliosis. Whatever the diagnosis may be, physical therapists are routinely involved in the treatment of patients with low back pain.

In addition to the traditional physical therapy treatment approaches, including exercise, manual therapy, heat/ice, and electric stimulation, we at Advanced PMR use bracing as a viable option in the treatment plan for patients with low back pain. A back brace, or lumbosacral orthosis, helps stabilize the muscles, ligaments, and bony structures of the low back. It mainly restricts abnormal forward and backward bending, keeping the back in better alignment with activities such as bending and lifting as well as standing and walking. A back brace also provides additional support to the abdominal and lumbar (i.e. low back) musculature, meaning that those muscles will not have to work as hard during various daily movements.

When a physical therapist assesses whether or not a patient is appropriate for wearing of a back brace, he or she asks several questions. Is the patient experiencing severe low back pain? Does pain occur with specific movements or activities, such as prolonged standing, long distance walking, or bending and lifting? Does the patient exhibit abdominal and/or back muscle weakness? Does the patient exhibit poor body mechanics with bending and lifting? If the answer to most or all of these questions is “yes,” then that patient may be a good candidate for a back brace.

When a back brace is issued to a patient, it is imperative that it is understood that unless that patient had a surgery and has been ordered by the surgeon to wear the brace at all times, the patient should only wear the brace when performing those activities that tend to increase back pain. For example, if a patient reports that long distance walking causes back pain, then the brace would be worn while the patient goes shopping, goes for a walk outdoors, or does anything that involves long distance walking. However, that same patient would not want to wear their brace while lounging around their home. Otherwise, that patient’s muscles could become reliant on the brace for support, and weakening of the muscles could occur as a result. The physical therapist should be sure to educate the patient on the proper times a back brace should be worn.

To recap, back pain is one of the most common conditions treated by physical therapists. Back braces can be used for patients with low back pain to provide better spinal alignment as well as muscular and ligamentous support. Your physical therapist will assess your specific case to determine is a back brace is right for you, and if you are given a back brace, your physical therapist will educate you on the details of the use of the brace, including when to wear it. It is my hope that with this information it is understood that back braces are a support but not necessarily a permanent fix, and everyone will be more comfortable with idea of wearing a brace if needed. Thanks for reading!

Dr. Rob Kohutanycz, PT, DPT

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Posted in: Evidence Based Medicine, Fitness, Health & Wellness

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