Spinal Bracing Center

A spinal brace may be prescribed by your doctor to help stabilize one or more levels of your spine, stop or control spinal movement, lift pressure off an area of the spine, help prevent re-injury while you heal, and relieve pain.
Woman wearing a neck braceThe collar stabilizes the head and neck preventing excessive movement that may cause pain.Your doctor may prescribe brace therapy as your only treatment. For example, a soft cervical collar worn after a whiplash injury not only supports the neck but may lift the head a bit taking some pressure off the neck’s injured tissues (eg, muscles). Furthermore, the collar stabilizes the head and neck preventing excessive movement that may cause pain.

Certain types of braces are prescribed to be worn after a spinal fusion procedure. The brace stabilizes and immobilizes the area of the spine where surgery was performed to help the bones in the back or neck to heal properly and completely.

Along with the brace, your doctor provides you with instructions that include when and how long to wear the brace, and how to care for your brace. Bracing may be prescribed as the only treatment, such as in some cases of scoliosis.

Purposeful Brace Construction
The construction and the materials used to make a brace differ according to the purpose of the brace. Perhaps a rigid brace is prescribed to help stabilize a scoliotic curve; to keep the curve from progressing or becoming larger. These types of braces may cover a larger area of the body’s trunk and may be constructed using sturdy materials, such as plastic, metal, strong and/or breathable fabric. Rigid braces may be made with holes or areas that offer ventilation for comfort. The adjustability of a brace depends in part on its purpose. Brace closures may utilize Velcro, belt-like straps, or loop and hook closures.

In general, braces are categorized as being:

  • Soft
  • Flexible
  • Rigid
  • Semi-rigid

Fit Must be Just Right
Flexible braces are often prefabricated in different sizes allowing your doctor to make simple adjustments to fit you properly for the purpose intended (eg, support your lower back). Other types of braces are custom fabricated, which means the doctor and/or orthotist measures specific parts of the patient’s body in different positions (eg, standing, seated) so the brace is made for comfort and purpose. The medical professional who is trained and certified in the design, fitting, and construction of braces is called an orthotist. An orthotist works with you and your doctor to ensure that your brace is the right type to provide you with the greatest benefit in treating your spinal condition.

Staying Active
Your activity level is dependent on your doctor’s guidance, which must be closely adhered to. During brace therapy some patients are admonished to walk and be as active as possible with limitations. Staying active can help prevent loss of muscle mass (atrophy) and weakness. Your doctor may prescribe a course of physical therapy to help you exercise and safely move while braced.

If Bracing Become Addictive
In some cases, long-term use of a spinal brace can lead to a form of psychological addiction, in which the patient feels dependent on the brace for support even after the brace is no longer physically required. You and your doctor will work together closely to determine how long a brace should be worn, and if psychological addiction is suspected, your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional to assist you as you transition from wearing your brace regularly.

Concluding Thoughts
Spinal braces can be a hugely beneficial component of your spinal disorder treatment regimen. Although braces may restrict you from participating in certain activities or lead to other lifestyle changes, the support braces provide can prevent additional injury and accelerate your healing.

Updated on: 12/24/19
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Questions to Ask Your Orthotist

An orthotist is a specialist who designs and fits braces. During your visit with your orthotist, it's important to come prepared with questions.
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