If you’re recovering from a back injury and a back brace is the only reason why your spine hasn’t split in half, you may be inclined to keep the back brace on for a long period of time. But you may be wondering how long should you wear a back brace before you need to take it off? Or can you wear a brace brace all the time, or are there any disadvantages to this?
You should only wear a back brace while you are performing activities where your back may be at high risk of injury such as lifting heavy objects or if you are injured and require extra stability. Generally, you should not rely on a back brace unless you have a specific medical condition or your doctor tells you to.
Back braces are effective for short-term relief from lower back pain. However, those who do not have a back injury can wear it to reduce the chances of suffering a back injury. Back braces are often worn by people in occupations that perform heavy lifting such as construction workers and nurses. However, those who have sedentary desk jobs can wear a posture brace to protect their neck and back from the effects of slouching.
If you are unsure, consult a doctor on how long you should wear a back brace. The brace must be worn correctly so that it provides stability without any irritation. Some medical braces, such as those for fractures, can be worn 24 hours a day. It can be okay to remove a medical brace for brief periods to give your skin some air and to wash it.
Who Should Wear A Back Brace?
The purpose of a back brace is to provide support to the spine by limiting its mobility. For the average person, a store-bought back brace can be useful when lifting heavy objects or sitting for long periods of time. This keeps the spine in a neutral position and helps users maintain good posture when they need it most.
For medical back braces, they are commonly prescribed for adolescents suffering from scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine) and their spine has not yet curved too much. A scoliosis brace is intended to limit any further curving, in the hopes that surgery will not be required in the future.
For extreme medical conditions like a child affected by scoliosis, a back brace may need to be worn as much as 23 hours a day until they are fully grown. As the child reaches adulthood, they can wear the brace less and less until one day they no longer need it anymore.
Here is a list of common conditions that may require the assistance of a back brace to treat:
- Post-operative Healing
- Lower Back Pain
- Herniated Disc
- Muscle Strains
- Spinal Stenosis
Wearing A Back Brace for Too Long
If you suffered a muscle strain at work, you should not wear a back brace for more than a few days or up to two weeks at most. The problem with wearing a brace too long is that patients become too reliant on it. They begin to wear it all the time, and the muscles get accustomed to the brace which can result in strength loss.
A lumbar support device is effective in the short term so that patients can still move around and go to work instead of being bedridden and losing wages. However, it is important to strengthen the core muscles because it is the body’s natural spine support. Rather than depending on a back brace, one should focus on building a strong core to prevent injuries in the future.
You should follow the exercises in this video to develop a stable core.
Studies have found that wearing a lumbar support device can result in detrimental outcomes like skin lesions, gastrointestinal disorders, muscle atrophy, and increased heart rates and blood pressure. Fortunately, these issues are rare and only affect those who wear their back brace for long periods of time (that is, more than the two weeks that experts recommend).
If your back brace is worn properly, meaning it has a snug fit and is not overused, then one should not encounter these negative effects. The most common issue that patients suffer from, is minor skin irritation on areas where the brace rubs against the body. This is easily fixed by wearing an undershirt and ensuring that the brace does not directly contact against the skin.
How Long for Post-Operative Healing
Those who recently underwent back surgery may be prescribed a rigid lumbar support brace which is designed to reduce pressure on the spinal column. It should also restrict movement, provide support, and reduce micro-motions so that the spine is in the ideal environment to recover. Spinal surgeons recommend patients wear back braces for 3 to 8 weeks post surgery, but the duration can be adjusted based on the patient’s preferences.
How to Maximize a Back Brace
We have already covered some of the ways a back brace can help you, as well as some potential side effects if used improperly. Here are some additional tips that can help you make the most of your back brace with minimal downsides.
Wear It As Advised
Following the instructions from the product manufacturer or from a doctor is essential for successful treatment of your back injury. There are numerous reasons why a patient may find it hard to wear, such as feeling uncomfortable or feeling too restricted to perform simple daily activities.
If a back brace is feeling too much to bear, then you will have to make adjustments or ask a doctor to help you put on the brace. Before giving up on a brace, consult with your doctor to ensure you are still on the right track.
Not Relying on the Brace for Long-Term Support
Back braces are short-term solutions to back injuries. They are meant to keep you on your feet so that you don’t miss out on school, work, or general everyday activities while you are healing. Wearing a brace for too long can lead to muscle wasting.
One may also build a dependence on the brace, not just physically, but mentally as well. Patients may feel like they are brittle and cannot perform simple actions without their back brace to support them. And if their core muscles have gotten weaker, then they may be right. A weak core means a vulnerable back, susceptible to further injury and worse pain.
How Long Should I Wear a Back Brace?
Ultimately, the answer to “how long you should wear a back brace” depends on the severity of your back injury or medical condition. In general, one should not wear their brace for longer than a few days. Those with medical conditions and a prescribed lumbar support device should follow the doctor’s instructions for how to wear it and for how long.