Spinal braces are external devices that help in the management of spinal disorders. They restrict the movement of the affected region of the spine, as well as support and stabilize it to relieve pain and promote healing following injury or spinal surgery. Braces are also called orthotics and are made from different materials such as nylon, rubber, molded plastic and elastic cotton. The basic function of the brace is to:
- Immobilize the spine and aid in healing
- Stabilize the injured area
- Prevent the advancement of the deformity
- Manage pain by limiting movement
Based on the segments of the body supported by the spinal braces, spinal bracing can be categorized as:
- Sacroiliac orthoses (SIO)
- Lumbosacral orthoses (LSO)
- Thoracolumbosacral orthoses (TLSO)
- Cervicothoracolumbosacral orthoses (CTLSO)
- Cervical orthoses
- Cervicothoracic orthoses (CTO)
Based on the material used and the impact on movement, spinal braces can be categorized as flexible braces and rigid braces.
Flexible braces or corsets are made of cotton or nylon. Corsets reduce the pressure on the affected spinal segment by compressing the abdomen and help relieve low back pain associated with different spinal disorders such as degenerative disc disease, trauma, and postural deformities.
Rigid braces are made of fabricated material and provide additional immobilization that minimizes the risk of further injury in conditions such as spinal fractures, unstable spine, post-surgery and other related disorders. The rigid braces provide external stability to the affected spinal area for better healing.
A brace specialist is also referred to as an orthotist and is trained in different fields such as anatomy, biomechanics, material engineering, physical science and other related fields. In some cases spinal braces are fitted in consultation with an orthotist, as per the requirements of the treatment and condition of the patient. Your doctor may recommend spinal braces for a specified time period, which may range from a few weeks to months, depending on the condition and the type of the disorder. Physical therapy may also be recommended along with spinal braces to improve muscle strength.
Patients wearing cervical braces should avoid activities that put undue strain on the affected area such as driving. Follow the instruction of your doctor for bathing and while performing other daily activities. If the patient is instructed to shower with the brace, then the brace should be cleaned appropriately following bathing.