Quince Orchard Medical Center is incorporating low back braces into care plans for our patients. Prescribed in-office, a low back brace can be a valuable tool to help manage pain while treating with our chiropractors or physical therapists.
By providing our patients with this kind of tool, we can steer patients away from Tylenol, Advil, or other (stronger) types of painkillers. Here are some specific conditions where an LSO back brace has been found to be helpful and providing drug free relief:
Isthmus spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition in which one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below. It can cause leg pain and/or low back pain. Using a rigid back brace for isthmic spondylolisthesis has been shown to minimize the amount of vertebral slippage and significantly improve walking ability and pain levels. A rigid or semi- rigid brace limits excess motion at the fractured segment, helping control pain and potentially lessening damage to the joints, nerves, and muscles.
Spondylolysis is a defect or stress fracture in the vertebrae. They usually occur in the lower back but may also occur in the neck. Similar to isthmic spondylolisthesis (see above), a semi-rigid or rigid brace may be recommended to minimize painful micro-motions at a fractured vertebral level, reducing pain and potentially allowing the fracture to heal.
Osteoarthritis of the spine is a breakdown of the cartilage of the joints and discs in the neck and/or lower back. Sometimes osteoarthritis produces spurs that put pressure on the nerves leaving the spinal column. This can cause weakness and pain in the arms and legs. Instability and painful micro-motions from spinal osteoarthritis may be reduced with the use of a rigid or semi-rigid back brace. Additionally, a brace can reduce pressure on the affected facet joints, alleviating pain and making everyday movements easier, such as moving from a seated to standing position, or vice versa.
Degenerative disc disease/lumbar herniated disc
When a spinal disc breaks down and/or herniates, a rigid or semi-rigid back brace can help stabilize and reduce micro-motions at the affected spinal segment. A back brace may also be used to limit bending and twisting and assist in carrying some of the weight the discs normally withstand.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your vertebrae, called the neural foramen, and results in pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Bracing for lumbar spinal stenosis aims to reduce pressure on and limit micro-motions in the lower spine, both of which can cause nerve root irritation and radicular pain. In many cases, a brace can help adjust posture or shift weight to the abdomen; the goal of unloading pressure from the spine.
Muscle tension and strain
A semi- rigid back brace may be advised for low back muscle strain. A back brace can help alleviate muscle tension by reducing pressure on the spine, thereby reducing the amount of strength needed in the muscles to support the spinal column. It also limits the amount of twisting or bending your spine endures, giving the muscles time to heal. Additionally, heat from the brace can help relax tense muscles, contributing to pain relief. It’s important to note bracing should not be completely relied upon for a strained muscle. Wearing the brace for short amounts of time is appropriate as the back muscles will need to strengthen again. Solely relying on a brace for back muscle tension and strain can lead to loss of strength in the back, spine, and shoulders.
A rigid or semi-rigid brace may be prescribed following spinal surgery with the goal of reducing pressure on the spinal column, adding stability and limiting movements and micro-motions to provide a healthy healing environment. A questionnaire completed by spinal surgeons found the most common reason for post-surgical bracing was to limit activity and movement. The same questionnaire showed that back braces were generally recommended between 3 and 8 weeks following surgery, but the duration differed based on a patient’s needs.
The doctors at QOMC are happy to prescribe a semi-rigid or rigid LSO back brace if appropriate for the pain our patients are experiencing. If you have questions don’t hesitate to discuss this possibility with your doctor at your next visit or give us a call to schedule an appointment.