Spinal Bracing

A brace is an external support your doctor may prescribe to reduce movement, provide extra support, keep the spine in a fixed position, and to treat particular types of spinal deformity.  Depending on your spine problem, a spinal brace may help reduce pain too.  Spinal braces are used to treat many different spinal disorders such as neck or back sprain/strain, spondylosis, adolescent scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, fracture, and after certain types of spine surgery. The goal of bracing is to provide support and promote healing.

  • What is the difference between a soft and hard brace?
  • Are there specialists in the field of spinal bracing?
  • How often do I need to wear a brace?
  • I have a brace; does my doctor need to know?

Spinal brace types

Braces are basically categorized as being soft or rigid.  Some braces are pre-fabricated from a mold and designed using plastic, elastic, metal, and woven materials.

  • Soft braces provide muscular support during movement.
  • Rigid braces restrict movement.

An example of a soft brace is a cervical (neck) collar made of dense foam, moisture-wicking outer cover and Velcro closure.  A TLSO (thoracolumbosacral orthotic) may be prescribed to treat a scoliosis; an abnormal sideways curve of the spine affecting the thoracic (mid back), lumbar (low back) and/or sacral (pelvis) region.  Of course, there are many other types of braces whether categorized as soft or rigid.

Spine brace specialists work with your doctor

Depending on your diagnosis and the doctor’s treatment plan, an Orthotist may be involved.  An Orthotist is a brace specialist trained in anatomy, biomechanics, physical science, materials engineering, and related fields. The Orthotist works with your doctor and you to size, fit, and adjust the brace.  This specialist understands wearing a brace can be inconvenient and uncomfortable.  He and your doctor want you to be as comfortable as possible and can offer suggestions and make adjustments during treatment.

Doctor-prescribed spinal brace treatment

Your treatment plan may involve wearing the brace all the time for a certain number of weeks or months.  To benefit fully from brace treatment, it is important to follow your doctor’s prescribed plan.  Treatment may include an exercise program to build muscle strength, endurance, and increase flexibility.

Over-the-counter spine braces—safe?

If you think you need a brace, first talk to your doctor.  While there are many types of braces available without a prescription, it is important your doctor knows why you are using a brace and how often you wear it.

A brace can help support your back and ease pain, but prolonged brace use (without your doctor’s recommendation) may lead to muscle weakness.

Learn more about spinal braces from these online sources:

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