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.
The goal of bracing is to provide support and promote healing.
Braces should be used cautiously and only under a doctor's supervision. Weakening and loss of muscle can occur with excessive use of braces for spinal conditions.
Spinal brace types
Braces are basically categorized as being soft or rigid:
- 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.
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 and endurance, and to increase flexibility.
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.