Pros and Cons of Using a Back Brace for Lower Back Pain

Man wearing a back brace for his lower back

In treating lower back pain, there are alternatives to things like medication and therapy. It all depends on the severity of the pain. If the pain is mild, one can resort to the use of a back brace for the management of chronic lower back pain. The following is a list of back brace pros and cons, and guidelines for it’s phases of pain management.

Pros

Most lower back pain woes stem from displaced pressure, which causes joints and disks and other inflexible body parts to grind against each other. Common back braces such as the ones found in pharmacies or sporting goods outlets are designed to lock the spine into a somewhat stationary position, eliminating some of the painful joint grinding. Additionally, in bracing the lower back, some of the support is transferred to the wearers abdominal region. This transference of weight can lead to improved posture, as the brace almost forces the body upright.

The constant lifting and setting of heavy objects required a lot of spinal support, and the brace definitely absorbs and redirects the worst of the pressure. The brace diverts the tension enough to allow the muscles and joints in the back to heal. Keeping the brace on through the whole day allows the healing process to redouble, now that there was much less external pressure working against it.

Cons

Of course, the back brace wasn’t the all-inclusive solution my friend hoped it would be. While the back brace was an invaluable safeguard in the first few days while working injured on the job, it was by no means the only necessary line of the defense. Extended use of a back brace causes atrophy in the muscles that it supports, as my friend found out during his first day working without the brace in a week. Instead of going back to the brace full time, he started spacing out his days using it in decreasing frequency, allowing equal time between spinal support and use of muscle. Had he continued to continuously wear the back brace, atrophy in the supporting muscles would have progressed to the point that they could no longer support the spine. This would put him in no better condition than when he first started to wear the brace, a complete 360-degree spin.

Proper Back Brace Use in a Nutshell

The back brace, like many things, is most effectively implemented in moderation. The first day of use is essential, as it allows pressure to be diverted from troublesome joints and allows the initiation of the spines healing process. After a day or two in the brace, the back must shed it and heal on it’s own to prevent muscle atrophy and longer-term spinal damage.

Dr. Luis Fandos is a NY based certified anesthesiologist.

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