Why Does My Back Brace Hurt? What You Need to Know About Back Brace Pain
In 2018, the global orthopedic braces and support market had a value of more than $4.9 billion. These include back braces, worn by people with back pain or those recovering from surgery. Now that you have to wear one yourself, and you feel some discomfort, you may be wondering, "why does my back brace hurt?"
A back brace may cause more pain if you fasten it too tight. It can also hurt if you wear it longer than what your doctor recommends. You may also feel some discomfort if you use a lumbar support device but remain inactive for too long.
Why Does My Back Brace Hurt When It Should Help Ease Pain?
Overtightening is one of the most common culprits behind back brace pain. If you fasten the device too tight, it can constrict the blood vessels, hampering blood supply. A "too snug" brace also places excess pressure on your muscles and soft tissues, leading to pain.
How Exactly Does Overtightening of a Back Brace Cause Pain?
A too snug back brace causing pain is much like how tight clothes can also cause discomfort.
Overly compressive clothes can "choke" your muscles, tissues, and blood vessels. This excessive pressure alone can be enough to cause some discomfort. This is also why health experts advise against the use of tight pants or any clothing that's too tight.
Over-fastening your back brace can have the same effect, which is why you shouldn't make it too tight.
Keep in mind that some lumbar support devices come with a corset-style design. In this way, a back brace can make your waist smaller as it compresses the abdominal area. So, a back brace that's too close-fitting can dig in too deep and have the same "choking" effect as tight clothes.
How Can a Back Brace Cause Circulation-Related Pain?
Did you know that the human body houses about 60,000 miles of blood vessels? These include all arteries, veins, and capillaries. The capillaries make up 80% of this length, even though they're the smallest type of blood vessels.
The thing is, blood vessels are extremely sensitive to external pressure and force. As mentioned above, they can get too constricted if you wear tight clothing.
Like tight clothes, a too snug back brace can also cut off circulation within your abdomen and back. It can do so by constricting the blood vessels, which carry blood to your muscles and soft tissues. Keep in mind that blood supplies oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body.
So, if you cut off the blood flow to your stomach and back muscles and tissues, then they won't get any nourishment. As a result, the blood-deprived parts of your body will start to hurt.
Can Wearing a Back Brace Cause an Existing Injury to Feel More Painful?
Yes, but only if you wear a too-tight brace. Again, a super-snug back brace can impede your circulation. The thing is, injured muscles, tissues, tendons, or ligaments need even more blood to heal.
For starters, injuries require more blood so that they can form a clot on the affected site. Scientists say that blood clots serve as a temporary barrier against excessive bleeding. In internal injuries like strains or sprains, clots help prevent fluid leakage.
So, a brace that's too tight can also cause pain by impeding injury recovery. There's also the extra pressure it exerts over the injured area. This can make the affected site feel even more painful.
Can a Back Brace Cause Nerve Pain?
According to experts, tight clothes, especially jeans, may lead to nerve damage. They do so by not only cutting off blood flow but also constricting the nerves themselves.
In this way, an extremely tight back brace can also cause nerve issues. The excessive snugness can dig deep into the nerves in your abdomen or back. Constricted muscles can also compress the nerves, causing both muscle and nerve pain.
If you experience nerve pain, you may also feel some numbness in the affected area. You may also experience paresthesia, which is a form of neuropathy. It's prevalent in the US, affecting about 25% to 35% of the nation's population.
Muscle weakness may also arise together with nerve pain. This is especially true for the tissues nearest the constricted nerves.
Is There Any Other Reason My Back Brace Hurts?
Your back brace may also hurt if its materials are too rigid and rough. For example, some types of fabrics can irritate the skin and even lead to allergic reactions. Skin allergies are quite common, affecting more than four in 10 US adults with allergies.
A skin allergy or reaction can feel sore, painful, and itchy. So, if you develop such symptoms while wearing a back brace, its materials are likely to blame.
Your back brace can also start to hurt if its material is non-breathable. In this case, the fabric components of the device can make your skin feel too hot.
A lumbar support device that doesn't have breathable fabrics can also increase discomfort. That's because the tightly-knit fabric prevents your sweat from dissipating. This can then lead to prolonged exposure to moisture, which can irritate your skin.
How Can I Prevent My Back Brace From Causing Pain?
Keep in mind that in the US alone, back pain results in over 264 million lost workdays every year. Experts also estimate that up to eight in 10 people will encounter back pain at some point in their lives. Many of these individuals wear back braces to help reduce the pain and discomfort they feel.
However, even high-quality lumbar braces can cause discomfort if you wear them improperly. Indeed, user error is one of the most common reasons that back braces can cause pain.
So, to help you maximize the beneficial effects of your back brace, be sure to keep these tips in mind.
Choose the Right Brace Size
There's no such thing as "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to back braces. That's why the best way to prevent a back brace from hurting is to use one that best suits your body size. It's important to account for your waist's circumference when picking a back brace.
The great news is that high-quality orthopedic lumbar support comes in varying sizes. For example, if your waistline is between 29.5 inches to 32 inches, then you should go for a small-sized brace. If you go any bigger than this, your brace will be too loose to serve its purpose of giving stability and support.
On the other hand, if your waist circumference is between 35 inches and 37.5 inches, then you should go with large. If you choose anything smaller, the brace will be too snug. You won't be able to breathe properly, and you'll likely end up feeling uncomfortable.
Choose a medical back brace that comes with exceptional adjustability features. This way, you can easily fasten or loosen the supportive device. The ability to adjust your brace is especially vital as your posture always changes.
For example, standing with your back straight allows for your spine to straighten out. Your stomach muscles also flatten as they "stretch" while your back is erect. This is why a back brace can feel loose when you're in a standing position.
By contrast, sitting presses together your back and stomach muscles. As such, they expand outward or sideward. This bulging, in turn, can make your brace feel too tight once you take a seat.
This is why your back brace should offer excellent adjustability. This way, you can always change how it fits your body. By adjusting your brace according to your posture, you can prevent it from causing pain.
Invest in a Back Brace or Support with Breathable Materials
As you shop for a new back brace, make sure that you choose one with breathable materials. Breathable fabrics allow sweat to escape quickly, so they are far more comfortable.
Breathable materials also help diffuse perspiration through improved airflow. For example, some lumbar support devices incorporate extra ventilation. This promotes better air circulation, which then allows for sweat to evaporate faster.
Breathable materials also make lumbar support belts more comfortable for longer-term use. This is especially important for those recovering from severe back injuries or surgery. These patients often need to wear braces for most of the day.
If you're one of these patients, then that's all the more reason to choose breathable fabrics. This way, you can prevent skin irritations and feel comfier throughout the day.
Always Follow Your Doctor's Advice and Directions
How long you need to use a back brace depends on the specific back condition you have. However, most people with back pain wear them for an average of two hours each day. This helps stabilize the back without it making it feel too accustomed to the extra support.
The best way to be sure is to ask your healthcare provider, though. Your doctor will provide you a guideline on how and when exactly to use a back brace. Your physician will also give you instructions on how many hours a day you need to wear the support.
Please make sure that you follow your doctor's prescription. If you don't wear the brace enough, it may not help reduce your back pain at all. On the other hand, wearing it for extended periods can make your back too reliant on it.
Over-reliance on a back brace, in turn, may result in pain once you stop wearing the device. That's because your back may have gotten too used to the extra support. So, to keep this from happening, always adhere to your doctor's instructions.
Don't Rest for Too Long
The swelling that occurs after minor back injuries often goes down after the first few days. You should exercise your injured back as soon as the inflammation starts to ease. Doing so helps boost the blood flow into the injured areas of your back.
If you rest for too long, your back can develop "pressure sores." These can form if you allow your skin and tissues to press against something for a prolonged period. An example is lying down all the time, which increases pressure on your back and can hinder blood supply.
A back brace can trigger some pain or discomfort if you already have existing pressure sores. That's because the support places more pressure on these sore points.
That's why it's always best to start moving again as soon as the swelling in your back improves. This way, you can prevent pressure sores from developing in the first place.
If you do have existing pressure sores, then it's time to make your body get used to moving again. Wearing a back brace at this point will likely trigger the pressure sores. However, you'll feel less and less discomfort as your body gets used to moving about again.
Be careful when exercising, though; you want to start off with low-impact activities. Avoid running or jogging right away, as these can jar your back and cause more pain. Instead, consider stationary cycling, elliptical machines, and swimming.
As always, make sure you get the green light from your physician before you start exercising. Your doctor will also likely recommend specific activities you can do as your back heals.
Proper Back Brace Use Is Key to Preventing More Back Pain
There you have it, all the answers you've been looking for the question, "why does my back brace hurt?" As you can see, most cases of back braces causing discomfort or pain is due to improper use. That's why it's vital to choose not just the right-sized brace but also one that's adjustable.
Most importantly, make sure that you consult your doctor about the use of a back brace.
Do you have any other questions about lumbar support belts and back braces? If so, then our team here at PowerRebound can help! Please feel free to send us your questions, and we'll get back to you ASAP.