Back Braces for Back Pain

The most common models of back braces for back pain include the Boston brace, Charleston bending brace, Cheneau brace, Milwaukee brace, SpineCor brace, and SPoRT brace. The design of the brace that patients use is related to the specific spinal condition that a person has. Some braces are design to slow or halt the progress of a lateral curvature in a scoliosis patient. Some braces are designed to act as a splint for people recovering from serious injuries or spinal fusion surgeries. Some back supports are designed to hold a person in a safe posture as they bend down and bring back up - heavy objects. It is though that back braces keep the spine safer because it inhibits the spine from movements that it might have made when changing or holding postures, running, or lifting. Another though is that certain back braces or supports compress the abdominal cavity, and that this compression of the abdomen takes some of the pressure off of the lumbar spine (lower back).

Let's take a closer look at what a back brace is and what purpose they may serve in helping people recover from spinal injuries.

What is a back brace? A back brace is a device that attaches to the front and/or back of the body. It is designed to limit the motion of the spine, and especially to limit movements of the back that would cause or re-aggravate injuries. Progressive conditions, post-operative fusions, and fractures are three conditions that may require the usage of such braces to stabilize the spine so that it has the ability to heal itself in a safe environment.

Back braces are either soft or rigid:
  • Soft braces: Soft braces are elastic braces that support the spine during motions that could stress the back (heavy lifting). Other soft braces are designed to limit forward motion of the spine and assist in setting spinal fusions.

  • Rigid (hard) braces: These braces are form fitting plastic molds that restrict motion by as much as fifty percent

Bracing for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: It must be stressed that back bracing to limit the progression of an abnormal curvature is only beneficial while a person is still growing. When an adolescent patient with scoliosis has reached full maturity, there is no evidence that back bracing reverses the curvature or prevents back pain.

That being said, back braces may stop the curvature from getting any worse.

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is scoliosis that is first recognized in adolescence and is of no known cause. The Boston brace is the most commonly used for AIS.

Compliance is a big issue with these types of braces. These braces may be visible from under the patient's clothing and thus young adults may be embarrassed to use them. Back exercises may help with the symptoms but will likely not reverse the degree of lateral curvature. These braces are designed to be rigid. As such, patients may have trouble with activities as simple as tying their shoes and sitting on the floor. Chest pain and abdominal pain may be felt due to the pressure of the device against their body.

Boston Brace: The Boston brace is one type of thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO). This device looks like a corset but with a custom formed hard plastic molding that wraps around the entire torso. This orthosis begins at the top of the hips and ends just below the nipples in the front and back. The device is one solid piece across the front and has three clasps to close it in the back.

This brace is designed to correct vertebra rotation and coronal plane curves. The device has a soft plastazote foam lining (or Aliplast on the inside and a hard polypropylene outer shell on the outside.