When back braces are mentioned, you may have visions of the kind of spine-support devices often worn by adolescents with scoliosis or individuals with spinal stenosis or a similar condition that causes an abnormal curvature of the spine. In fact, the first back braces developed by army surgeon Ambrose Paré in the 1500s were designed to correct spinal deformities. However, there are other instances when wearing a supportive brace can be beneficial.
1. Lifting Heavy Weight or Working Out
Whether you regularly lift heavy boxes for work or you bend down to pick up weights at the gym, a back brace can make these tasks less stressful on your spine. In addition to taking pressure directly off of your backbone, braces can also ease you into the correct position to lift—at your knees instead of at your waist. If you’ll mostly be lifting for workout purposes, a squat belt can provide more direct lower back support. Improper lifting can contribute to many spine-related injuries, including:
- Muscle strains affecting overstressed back muscles
- Back-supporting ligament sprains
- Spinal disc damage
- Facet (spinal) joint fractures
2. Sitting for Long Periods
The simple act of sitting down for a while to spend time with friends or enjoy a family meal doesn’t require a back brace. However, if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, a brace can take some of the direct pressure off of your lower spine, particularly around possible sources of irritation like the sciatic nerve. A brace can also encourage you to maintain better posture while sitting. Also consider wearing a back brace when:
- Driving or sitting in a car for long periods
- Sitting at home for several hours to complete tasks like craft or sewing projects
- Being on a plane where it’s not possible to get up and stretch too often
3. Recovering from Spine-Related Surgery
Even if you have surgery performed with minimally invasive techniques, your spine will still be somewhat weakened as it heals. The spine is especially susceptible to reinjury following fusion surgery. It may not be all that comfortable to wear a brace as you recover from a procedure. However, doing so can reduce your odds of having to go through a second operation to correct damage or address an entirely different source of instability. Post-surgery bracing may also:
- Prevent hardware from slipping out of place
- Make it easier for a fusion to form in the affected area of your spine
- Increase comfort as you go through post-surgery rehab and physical therapy
Heavier rigid braces limit about half of the spine’s motion, which is why they’re often used to allow spinal fractures to heal. Lighter elastic (corset) designs are primarily for maintaining posture or limiting movement in certain areas and are usually worn while lifting or sitting. Back braces shouldn’t be overused since doing so could contribute to muscle atrophy and other issues. A Los Angeles spine surgeon can provide more wearing tips specific to your needs.
It’s important to take care of your back after undergoing a procedure such as spinal decompression or XLIF surgery. Los Angeles residents who need spinal surgery should contact The Spine Institute to see what their options are for finding relief. Call our office today at 310-828-7757.