Back brace use has become so common in modern society that these devices barely get a second glance. Just think of how many support belts and devices you see in the average gym! Other times we may spot someone wearing one while doing yard work or even running errands. It’s a big shift from the days when back brace use may have involved a cumbersome full-body contraption.
Now, thanks to smaller and more readily available devices, they’ve become ubiquitous – not necessarily a good thing as many people now begin back brace use without first consulting a doctor. Too few people realize that back braces are supposed to be temporary. In fact, not only can long-term back brace use become ineffective, it can actually damage your back by reducing muscle use and consequently, weakening your back overall.
Understand when, where and for how long to use a back brace and be sure that you are healing your back rather than harming it.
What is a back brace?
It’s easy to get confused about just what constitutes a back brace – after all, there are plenty of consumer-targeted devices out there designed to stabilize the back. Back braces may come in metal or plastic, they may be full-body to support an entire spine, or they may be smaller, soft models designed to support a specific area such as the lower back.
No matter what design, a back brace is generally designed to let your body heal by reducing the workload on the back. It does this by supporting structures in the lumbar spine and restricting the range of motion to prevent movements that exacerbate the pain. It also can help maintain correct posture, an often-overlooked back pain culprit.
When back brace use is appropriate
Patients suffering from scoliosis or being treated for some other back condition might be prescribed back brace use to help heal. This is most likely after an injury or after surgery.
Back braces also can be used to prevent injury, particularly during heavy lifting or other strenuous physical activity.
Problems can arise, though, when patients become dependent on a back brace. When is too long to wear a back brace? This answer is unique to each patient and should be determined by working with a doctor. The important thing is that you use the device under doctor’s supervision and not infinitely.
Doing otherwise can result in weak muscles in the back and abdomen.
Once your doctor says it’s ok to begin wearing your back brace less or even not at all, there are a few easy ways to build your back up:
- Once the pain has subsided significantly start therapeutic exercises
- Try planks to strengthen your core; start holding the position as long as you can and work your way up to longer times
- Practice prone extension exercises to strengthen the muscles in the low back
Follow these tips to a strong back and you should be able to put your back brace away in not time!