Using Back Braces
- Posted on: Jun 30 2018
When we’re dealing with fractures or have performed fusion surgery on the lumbar spine, we often use back braces to limit the motion and help the healing process.
There are two types of back braces: rigid braces and corset braces. Here’s a little information about them, along with the pros and cons of wearing a back brace for more daily use.
Rigid Back Braces
These are form-fitting plastic braces that are fit to the patient. These braces limit about half of the motion of the spine, so they are effective when we are treating patients for a fractured vertebra or after we’ve performed fusion surgery on the lumbar spine. These braces are not comfortable, but provide the limitation we need to promote healing and bone growth.
Sometimes we will use a corset brace after lumbar fusion. While not as limiting as a rigid braces, corset braces still help limit motion in the back. After fusion surgery, these braces don’t allow the patient to bend forward. This is important to not stress the fused vertebrae and achieve solid fusion.
People with jobs that involve heavy or day-long lifting also may opt to wear these types of braces. They work to limit the motion and to basically remind the person to lift with the legs and not the back.
Pros and Cons
While back braces have great benefit for short-term use. The long-term use of corset braces can have a downside.
Pros of using a back brace
- After surgery they keep the spine stable.
- Lumbar support braces can be helpful immediately after lower back injury to limit movement, relieving demand on the injured area of the spine.
- Back braces help some people improve their posture.
- They can aid movement from sitting to standing after injury.
- For labor-intensive jobs, they can aid when an injured person first returns to work.
Cons of using a back brace
- Long-term reliance on a back brace can lead to muscle atrophy in the support muscles for the spine. This can weaken them and lead to injury when the brace is off.
- When you use a lumbar support brace, this can simply transfer the demand from that area of the spine to a higher point, which may not naturally be the right location for those loads.
- In cases of jobs that involve lifting, wearing a back brace long-term could present more risk of injury than not wearing one. This is because muscles and ligaments will weaken the more the brace is used, making the spine actually more vulnerable.
While we may put you in a back brace for short-term healing and to limit mobility, at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders we don’t recommend their use on a daily basis.