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Back braces are popular wearable supports that reportedly ease pain and improve people’s postures. A person may choose to wear a back brace for several reasons, including preventing work-related injuries or managing conditions such as scoliosis. However, most people should not use back braces unless a doctor recommends them.

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A back brace is a device a person may wear to support their back. Some people believe they may reduce back pain, prevent injuries, promote recovery, and encourage correct posture and proper spine alignment.

A back brace usually features elastic compression bands and rigid plastic or metals, or a combination of both. They come as either custom-fitted or prefabricated designs. Prefabricated or “off-the-shelf” types are readily available and do not require fitting and molding.

When might a person need one?

An individual may need a back brace for the following reasons:

  • spine stabilization after trauma or injury
  • to correct posture issues
  • for work activities or lifestyles that increase the risk of back strain or injury

A doctor or medical professional can advise on when using one is safe or beneficial.

Spine immobilization through bracing is beneficial post-surgery. It allows structures to heal, maintains correct alignment, and reduces spinal compression.

It may also be helpful for people with back conditions such as:

These devices help limit micromotions in the spine to reduce slippage and pressure, easing pain and making daily movements tolerable.

A 2020 study found spinal orthoses, lumbosacral orthoses, and thoracolumbosacral orthoses (TLSO) help improve pain and disability without causing adverse effects during short-term use.

Back braces may also prevent further spine curvature in people with scoliosis. A 2021 study found back braces led to significant improvements in infants with idiopathic infantile scoliosis.

A back support or belly band may also be beneficial for pregnant people. A 2017 analysis found that pregnant women who wore pelvic belts reported less pelvic pain during their pregnancy.

Yes. Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies cover medically necessary back braces. These devices fall under the category of durable medical equipment (DME).

To be eligible for coverage, an individual must have a prescription from a physician who has approval from the insurance provider. The device should also meet the DME criteria of being:

  • durable
  • medically necessary
  • for home use
  • not useful for individuals who are not sick or injured
  • has an expected lifetime of at least 3 years

Back supports unload weight from the back and transfers it to the abdomen, reducing the load on spinal structures. The decreased pressure reduces muscle tension, a protective reaction to back injury and trauma, and the pain that usually accompanies it.

Back braces also provide proprioceptive input, encouraging people to correct their postures and use proper body mechanics. One study suggests that wearing a brace for 3 weeks may improve a person’s proprioception, though this research was only over a 3-week period, and the participants did not have back pain.

Most people will not need to wear a back brace and should only do so under guidance from their doctor.

Wearing a back brace can discourage a person from using their core muscles to support their body.

Healthcare professionals usually recommend braces for short-term use. Prolonged use may lead to dependence on the device, which may result in muscle weakness and atrophy.

A 2019 randomized controlled trial found that back brace use had no effect on back muscle thickness over a 4-week period. However, it did not examine the long-term effects of wearing them.

Ultimately, wearing a back brace that is not suitable for a person’s needs may only cause further pain and injury.

It is best to follow recommendations from a doctor or a physical therapist when choosing a style, material, and type of back brace.

Level of support

Back braces can be rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible. Rigid types offer stability for people with conditions causing moderate-to-severe pain and instability, such as fractures or health issues following traumatic accidents.

Flexible types consist of softer materials to limit excessive motion and provide compression while offering more freedom and flexibility.

Semi-rigid braces combine the two and feature a flexible brace for the body with rigid panels surrounding the device.

Size and fit

Most off-the-shelf products come in a universal size with adjustable belt wings or hook and eye locks to ensure a snug fit. Others are custom molded to a person’s body.

Materials

Flexible braces often comprise cotton, canvas, or neoprene, while rigid types can consist of metal, leather, or moldable plastic. Belts for sports enthusiasts usually retain heat to induce sweat.

Durability and maintenance

Machine-washable braces are easier to maintain. Braces with Velcro might wear faster, while stretchy types may stretch out after regular use.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Best back brace for lumbar support:
Mueller 64179 Adjustable Back Brace

This affordable lumbar back brace is reinforced with steel springs and has a dual-layer wrap-around design for maximum support and stability. The removable lumbar pad that comes with the brace gives an added compression.

This brace has the following features and specifications:

  • comes in sizes:
    • Small (22–34 inches)
    • Regular (28–50 in)
    • Plus (50–70 in)
  • machine washable
  • offers maximum support
  • provides support to the lower back

Best back brace for active lifestyles:
FlexGuard Back Support

This back support provides a combination of posture correction and lumbar support. The cushioned shoulder straps straighten the back, while the supportive waistband provides compression on the lower back.

Its sleek and discreet design allows users to wear it under clothing. It has a flexible and breathable fabric to prevent irritation and itchiness when moving about and wearing it for long periods.

This brace has the following features and specifications:

  • size options:
    • X-Small (20–24 in)
    • Small/medium (24–30 in)
    • Large (30–35 in)
    • X-Large (34–40 in)
  • machine washable
  • offers maximum support
  • provides support to the upper and lower back

Best back brace for work:
ComfyBrace Posture Corrector

This posture corrector aims to reduce chronic back pain to allow a person to work long hours. It does this by aligning the spine and reducing pressure. It is reportedly breathable and silky to the touch, making it ideal for wearing under a person’s clothes.

This brace has the following features and specifications:

  • fits chest sizes of 30–43 in
  • machine washable
  • offers basic support
  • provides support to the upper back

Best medical back brace:
Aspen Horizon 456 TLSO

This back brace restricts movement to help promote healing of the upper and lower spine. A doctor may recommend this type of brace for patients with challenging conditions such as burst fractures.

It has a patented tightening mechanism that independently localizes compression. It also has the following features and specifications:

  • size: adjustable to 24–50 in and up to 70 in with extension panels
  • handwash only
  • offers maximum support
  • provides support to the upper and lower back

Best back brace for posture:
Truweo Posture Corrector

This posture corrector prevents neck, shoulder, and back pain by correcting a person’s posture as they perform daily activities. An individual can also adjust the shoulder straps to adjust the tension. Additionally, the corrector allows for height adjustments to accommodate different body shapes and sizes.

This brace has the following features and specifications:

  • fits chest sizes of 30–43 in
  • machine washable
  • offers basic support
  • provides support to the upper back

Best back brace for pregnancy:
Neotech Care Pregnancy Support Belt

This pregnancy support belt is fully adjustable and ideal for a pregnant person’s growing abdomen, as it comes with an abdominal attachment and offers back support. People should use the support belt with clothing for maximal comfort. Additionally, individuals should only use the belt when standing or walking.

This brace has the following features and specifications:

  • Size:
    • Small
    • Medium
    • Large
    • X-Large
    • 2X-Large
  • handwash only
  • offers basic support
  • provides support to the lower back

The following are common questions and answers about back braces:

Who needs a back brace?

Most people do not need to wear a back brace — they should avoid using them unless recommended by a doctor.

Back braces may benefit individuals with scoliosis and could be useful during pregnancy. A person should look for a back brace that will suit their specific health needs.

Does Medicare cover a back brace?

Yes. Medicare, Medicaid, and most private health insurance providers consider back braces to be DME. An individual needs to show a doctor’s prescription to be eligible for coverage.

How long should you wear a posture corrector?

Begin with 15–30 minutes a day and progressively increase this period in increments of 5–10 minutes.

How to choose a back brace?

A person should consider the area that needs support, the amount of support they require, and the back brace’s material, size, and features.

People with back pain may opt to use back braces or postural supports to reduce pain and improve their posture.

There are many back braces available over the counter. However, individuals should consult a doctor before buying one to ensure they choose a device that will help with their condition.