Are you debating between buying a back brace and going to Physical Therapy. You're looking at these two options because your back is killing you. You're not able to move around your house. You're not able to walk the distance that you want to do. You're not able to stand up, sit down, basically your back is running your whole life. The back pain can be one of those things that just interrupts everything. Anything from standing in the grocery store line to sitting in your car, commuting to work can become very difficult and very painful surprisingly quickly. If you are staring at the aisle and you're like, Hmm, back braces are looking pretty good right now, but “I don't know if they're going to help me”. Then maybe a friend told you about physical therapy, but you know that that's going to be something that you have to commit to. Becoming another thing on your list. So you're trying to figure out what makes the most sense for you.
Let me just kind of go through the benefits of both. Hopefully this helps and does it make things more confusing for you? So the back brace. So if you're going to go buy a back brace, which I'm not for or against, I think they have their place. You want one that, especially if it's your lower back that's bothering you, to start at your mid hip and be really tight.
There are some braces that stay kind of loose, but you have to be able to make it real tight. The goal of the back brace is to help you stabilize your spine. So if you are bending forward, you don't want that to happen, right?
You don't want that. So if I'm up here, you see how there's a curve. If I'm wearing my back brace and I bend forward, I shouldn't be able to do that, which means that it needs to be on your skin. So underneath your clothes. So you're going to be wearing blue shirts for a while, but you want that back brace to be real snug. And they have some that like pull this way and then pull that way and then have extra straps. And, um, they can be very intense. You can buy them on Amazon. They're all sorts of different pricing. Um, and so the benefits are pain management, if your spine is unstable and your spine is just moving all over the place. You have herniated disks and things that are crazy going on in there. And you put on a back brace, especially if it's fitted properly, that can take off so much pressure from your low back. It can make it easier for you to move around. It can help you make it through your Workday. They do tend to be a little bit uncomfortable when people wear them correctly. The biggest complaint, especially being here in Houston when it is hot as blazes in the middle of the summer, is a lot of people don't like wearing them because they can be very hot. BAck braces are beautiful for pain management, if you get them fitted correctly and are using them correctly.
Now for physical therapy, what would be the difference? So with a physical therapist, what we do is we look at how you're moving and what your symptoms are. So like, when does your back bother you? How long has it been bothering you? Does it hurt when you're moving forward? When you're standing up straight? We go through all these questions and to find out generally when your pain is happening. We see how you're moving, determine what's tight and what's loose. ‘Cause normally there's some imbalance that's happening. We're going to check to see when, how strong your stomach (abdominal) muscles are and how strong your back muscles are and how strong your hip muscles are. We're going to go through and check strength and see if everything is balanced because ultimately that ends up being the big thing. The big problem is that there's some form of imbalance. If you have this much back pain then things are unstable. It doesn't necessarily mean you have an overt strength problem. A lot of times we just have a balance problem. Like something is pulling harder than something else; so it's a matter of figuring out what those two items are. Then to make them calm down and be equal.
And then look at how you move in your environment. A lot of times we've created some interesting movement patterns because of pain. Maybe it's because of the way that you have to do what you have to do for work. I mean, some people have to do repetitive motions at work i.e sitting for eight hours a day that can cause certain things to be tight and certain things to get weak. So it's just a matter of figuring out how to unravel the intricate person that you are and all the things that are involved with you. There are specialized exercises that we can give you. There are hands-on techniques to help facilitate all of these things and make sure that they happen quickly because a general exercise program may be great for some people, but how long does that take? So if you know exactly which muscles it's you can make a precise exercise program.
By seeing how you're moving, I can give you specific things that are going to help you. Not just a general, these are good for backs, and these are good for abs and these are good for hips. That can just be like buckshot. You're just shooting everything. Whereas if you come to a therapist, we're going to be looking at how you move. We're going to be very specific on what we want to see, what and how we want that quality of motion to look. We're good at getting that to come out so that you can stand I'm at the grocery store so that you can get back to walking with your friends on a nice, cool evening so that you can get back to the vacation planning without fear of having to be on an incredibly long airplane ride and having that just be too much for you.
So those are kind of the differences between buying a back brace and having physical therapy. And I hope that that information helps you.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald