Have You Considered This?
Many people with chronic lower back pain will want to consider the use of a lumbar backbrace. If you have had any experience in trying to find the right type then you know, selecting back braces for lower back pain can be daunting.
It has been estimated that 31 million Americans suffer from chronic lumbar pain…you are not alone in your dilemma. Here are some guidelines to help you select a lumbar back brace that best suits you. This is a lengthy article so grab a cup of coffee and read along:)
A Diagnosis Is Needed First
You would be amazed at the number of people who suffer from chronic lumbar pain who have not been given an actual diagnosis. Notice the bulges on the back of the spine depicted in the MRI to the right.
This means that, at some point in your care, you should have had a complete history and physical, an MRI of your lumbar spine, and had a trial of treatment by a team of pain practitioners (Physical Therapist, Orthopedic Surgeon, etc.). If this has not been done you need to see your primary care practitioner BEFORE you go any further in your search for a brace.
A Brace Is Part Of A Comprehensive Plan
If you are hoping to reduce your chronic lumbar pain with the brace alone you are going to be disappointed. The causes of chronic low back pain are many and often a person has 2 or more overlapping diagnoses.
So…a back brace should be only one component of a regimen of exercise, medications, physical therapy, bracing, etc.. Your primary care practitioner should be able to construct this regimen for you.
Braces Work By Several Mechanisms
The ways in which bracing relieves pain can be summarized by 6 separate mechanisms:
- Alignment: Each segment of your spine moves in multiple directions. Over time, segments of your spine “get stuck” which can stretch nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, etc..This causes pain and is relieved when the brace coaxes your spine back into alignment.
- Supportive: Gravity is constantly stressing your spine. The nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and discs are designed to be the supportive network for your spine. A lumbar brace compresses your abdominal contents causing a supportive effect on your spine.
- Restrictive: A brace decreases the range of motion of your spine, thus decreasing pain. Recent studies have shown that bracing causes a person to unconsciously reduce their range of motion (admittedly there is a small number of people who actually do the opposite and cause further damage).
- Traction: There are several braces on the market that actually apply traction to the lumbar spine relieving some of the compressive effect of gravity.
- Psychosomatic Effect: There is a sense of security some people get when they wear a brace. This can actually cause the release of endorphines in the brain which are naturally occurring pain relievers.
- Direct Contact Therapies: Several types of lumbar braces have devices embedded in their structure which can have therapeutic effects on pain (for instance some braces have hot packs in them).
Braces Vary As To What They Are Best Suited For
There are a range of types of lumbar back braces. A back brace may offer Support, Compression of the Abdomen, Restriction, or Traction. Many lumbar back braces offer combinations of these types in a single brace.
In particular, the traction braces are well suited to relieve chronic lumbar spinal pain from spinal nerve compression due to disc herniation.
The Brace Must Be Fit Right
When fitting your back brace you will want it snug but not restricting breathing. You should be able to slide your little finger along the side of the brace between your skin and the brace.
Also take note whether you will be wearing the brace directly against the skin or not. If against the skin, you will want to see if you are allergic to the contact material the brace is made from.
The Brace Must Be Worn Correctly…
Most health care practitioners do not recommend continuous wearing of your lumbar brace. You may only need to wear the brace when you are active, or working, or have persistent pain.
Remember that your brace is not a replacement for a good history and physical by your primary care practitioner. You will want to co-ordinate the type of brace you select with your practitioner.
MOST PEOPLE DO NOT WEAR THEIR LUMBAR BACK BRACE CONTINUOUSLY.
I hope this article has given you some additional guidance as to how to select a lumbar back brace. You will find that the proper brace for you is a very individualized choice. When you find the right brace you will have less pain, more freedom, and peace. Back bracing is a part of a comprehensive plan for back rehabilitation.
If you have a question or comment, please leave it below. I would love to be of service to you.
Wishing you joy and healing.