Back Brace
Fig 1: Back Brace
(larger view)

Motion of the lumbar (lower) spine can delay healing in fractures or in post-operative fusions. Limiting the motion of the spine enhances the healing process for bone in both conditions, and will also usually decrease the patient's low back pain and discomfort.

Two types of back braces are commonly used to limit the motion in the spine:

  • Rigid braces
  • Corset braces (elastic braces)
Article continues below

1. Rigid braces

Rigid braces, such as Boston Overlap braces or Thoracolumbar Sacral Orthosis (TLSO), are form-fitting plastic braces (see Figure 1). Provided that the rigid brace is well fitted, it is able to limit approximately 50% of the motion in the spine. Fractures (or broken bones) can often be treated with a rigid brace and may also be used after a fusion surgery.

Rigid braces are heavy and hot and tend to be relatively uncomfortable for patients. They should be worn when the patient is up, but may be removed when lying down.

2. Corset braces (elastic braces)

A corset brace is sometimes recommended to limit motion of the spine after a lumbar fusion. The brace helps limit motion in the back while the fusion sets up by not allowing the patient to bend forward. Bone grows better where there is little motion, and especially in cases where no instrumentation (devices to aid in stability) is used, a back brace can be helpful in obtaining a solid fusion.

People with jobs that involve heavy lifting also sometimes wear corset braces. These braces essentially work by limiting motion and acting as a reminder to use proper body posture when lifting. With the corset brace, one needs to lift with the back straight (not bent forward), using the large leg muscles to do the lifting.