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What Back Brace Should I Use for Lower Back Pain?

Pain in the lower back can be the result of many conditions, including strains, sprains, spinal stenosis, degenerated or herniated disc, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, spinal cord injury, and more. Before rushing out to buy a back brace, itís important for you to be properly diagnosed by a medical practitioner. If your doctor thinks that a brace will benefit you, a particular type will be recommended, for example, a lumbar-sacral corset, a thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO), or a chair-back lumbar brace. Each type of brace is specially designed to help with a particular situation, providing support for the trunk of the body and keeping the spine in the optimum position for healing.

Back braces differ in the amount of mobility your spine is allowed, ranging from total immobility to gentler support that reminds you to use your core abdominal muscles in order to maintain good posture.

For lower back pain, particularly for degenerative disc conditions and pain resulting from overstretching, a lumbar support belt can help relieve discomfort. Bear in mind that there is no research that definitely confirms wearing this type of belt will protect from injury or aid in lifting heavy weights.

A sacroiliac joint (SIJ) belt or corset provides adjustable restriction of movement through the sacrum.

Rigid back braces obviously restrict movement to a greater degree than support belts and corsets. A chair-back brace has a 3-point pressure system that controls flexion and extension (bending and stretching) of the lumbosacral area and also some sideways stretching. A Knight brace is similar, but restricts sideways movement more than the chair-back brace. Other types of brace, such as the Williams flexion, the Taylor, the Knight-Taylor, the Jewett, and the CASH (cruciform anterior spinal hyperextension) are available that provide varying degrees of restriction.

TLSOs control movement to the greatest degree of all spinal orthoses. These are lightweight, polypropylene, custom-molded braces that are relatively easy to take off and put on, allowing for regular skin inspection and easy bathing. They are particularly suited for the treatment of spinal fractures or low back fusions.

A Raney jacket is a smaller version of a TLSO, therefore potentially more suitable for lower back pain.

A pneumatic decompression brace can be used many times daily, but should not be worn continually. It provides lumbar support, offloading up to 50 percent of body weight from the spine onto the hipbones. These braces are often used to treat disc disorders, stenosis, facet syndrome, and stable spondylolisthesis.

Be aware that a back brace is considered a temporary measure. If you wear yours for too long or too often, you risk weakening the core body muscles that naturally support the spine. The result of that can be decreased mobility in your spine, which increases your dependency on the brace. Follow medical advice and wean yourself off the brace when you can.

Here are some suggestions for braces for particular conditions, but always follow medical advice:

Compression fracture: TLSO, Jewett, CASH.

Disc degeneration: soft corset, pneumatic lumbar vest.

Facet disorder: soft corset with stays or inserts, pneumatic decompression for chronic cases.

Myofascial and muscle pain: lumbar best, elastic low-profile corset without stays.

Osteoporosis: CASH.

Pregnancy: low-profile soft corset with stays in back.

Sacroiliac disorder: non-elastic sacroiliac joint belt with Velcro closure.

Spondylolysis: Boston overlap, Raney jacket, Williams flexion, chairback.

Spondylolisthesis: low-profile, molded lumbosacral, semi-rigid, chair-back.

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List of Back Braces