Since back braces are used to treat and cure a wide range of spinal problems, there is a wide range of types of back braces available. Two kinds of braces are often used to treat scoliosis, or a curvature in the spine. Other kinds of braces are used to support the pelvis, lower back, and other areas after an injury or surgery.
While some cases of scoliosis do not need treatment, some children with the condition may need to wear a brace to prevent their scoliosis from worsening, particularly if they are still growing. The two back braces used to treat scoliosis are the Milwaukee brace and the thoracolumbar-sacral orthosis brace (TLSO), or underarm brace. While the TLSO brace is less noticeable than the Milwaukee brace, it does not effectively treat scoliosis in the upper spine.
The Milwaukee brace, also known as a full torso brace, needs to be worn nearly around the clock. It is a cumbersome brace that encases the entire tors, from the neck down. TLSO braces have their own sets of problems. They are worn against the skin and feel hot, and they can reduce a person's lung capacity and can alter the way the kidneys function.
Other back braces for scoliosis are worn only while the patient sleeps. The Charleston bending brace is a custom brace molded to a person's body while she is bent in the opposite direction of the curve of her spine. Since the brace is only worn at night time, it has the least impact on a child's life.
Older people with back pain or who have undergone surgery, such as a spinal fusion, can benefit from a range of back braces. Lumbosacral belts are worn to support the lower part of the back. The belts put pressure on a person's stomach, taking it away from the back. They are particularly useful for people who have strained their lower back.
People who need more support than a lumbosacral belt can provide may wear a corset or a rigid brace. A corset, which resembles the garment worn by women to hold in the waist, is usually used on a patient after he has undergone a spinal fusion. The corset prevents a person's spine from moving too much while it heals. Corsets can also help protect the backs of people who work in jobs that require heavy lifting. Rigid back braces are also often used after a spinal fusion or to help a broken bone heal.