Back braces for chronic lower back pain

- Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine discussed the use of back braces to prevent and treat lower back pain Thursday on News 8 at Sunrise.

Dr. Harp said the back braces touted to treat back pain are elastic support belts that are worn low around the abdomen while physically active.  Some have plastic or metal stays to provide extra support. 

He said, as to their effectiveness, a distinction has to be made between prevention and treatment.  Back braces have not been shown to be effective for preventing back pain.  There is no reason for someone without back pain to wear a brace.  It will not prevent injury.  There is no evidence that back braces result in faster resolution of pain when used immediately after a back injury.

There is evidence that back braces reduce chronic back pain according to Dr. Harp.  A study done on home health workers, all of whom were moderately physically active on the job, showed that wearing a back brace reduced their average number of days of pain per month in half, from 10 to 5 days.  Although the number of painful days were reduced, the total number of days or work missed was the same for those who wore the braces and those who did not.

Dr. Harp also recommended remaining physically active, even if you have chronic back pain.  He said avoid bed rest, even during periods when the pain is more intense.  Use acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen for the pain, and contact your health care provider to discuss what other treatments may be helpful for you. 

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