Should I Wear A Back Brace For A Herniated Disc?

If you're suffering from a herniated disc and you want to know if wearing a back brace is right for you then you're at the right place.  Lumbar support can help a lot of people with different back ailments, but should you wear one if you have a herniated disc?  I explain why you should wear one in this article and when you should even consider getting one.


girl in spandex touching her shoulder blades

There's a lot of controversy surrounding back braces and their effectiveness.  This article aims to guide you to the truth.

In this blog post I will draw from my own personal experiences and that of data from professional research.

What's Covered In This Article?

Whether or not lumbar support devices can relieve lower back pain.

When should you wear a back brace and signs that you might need one.

Controversies surrounding lumbar support and its effectiveness.

Herniated discs are very common and occur mostly in people between the ages of 35 and 55.  I like to say that they can quite literally be a pain in the ass because of how they affect the sciatic nerve in your buttox.

I've dealt with herniated discs for years and there have been times that I've to whip out the lumbar support.  They DO help, but that's just me.  If you have a slipped disc and you're considering getting a back brace, talk to your doctor first and make sure that is the best thing for you to do.

The Story Of A Fool & His Involuntary Quest To Get A Back Brace

I'd like to share a little about myself and how I got my very first back injury.

It was 2006 and I was 19 years old.  I worked at a gym and I was training for semi pro football.

I asked one of my buddies, who also worked at the gym as a personal trainer, to help me out and train me for football.  He agreed and things were going smoothly.

So what went wrong?  I was a stupid 19 year old who thought he was invincible.  That's what went wrong!

My friend and personal trainer told me, "DO NOT TRAIN WITHOUT MY SUPERVISION!"

So what did brilliant 19 year old me do?  You guessed it.  My dumbass went and trained by myself.

It was early in the morning and I just leg day (who doesn't hate leg day?).  My lower back, hamstrings, and and glutes were feeling a bit tight and I figured I could give them a little stretch before I went home.

Lucky for me there was a machine that would stretch all three of those areas at the same time!

I probably did it wrong because after 30 seconds of using this machine, I noticed a weird and unusual sensation in my lower back.  It didn't hurt right away.  It was actually painless when it happened.

The pain was slow coming at first, growing in intensity until I couldn't even get out of bed the next morning.

Do Lumbar Support Devices Help With Herniated Discs?


- The Short Answer -

Yes.  In most cases, a lower back brace can help someone with a herniated disc.

Having a herniated disc can be a harrowing experience.  Often the pain associated with a herniated disc is debilitating and dramatically affects your daily life.  For some people, even the smallest movement such as a cough can leave them in excruciating pain.

As you can see in the previous section, I went through all of that pain and suffering (albeit because of my stupidity) and I had to do something.

This was when a friend of mine suggested I get a back brace.  I was hesitant at first because I thought a lumbar support device could make things worse.  But I was in no position to argue.  The pain was too much and I couldn't take the time off work to rest.

So, did it work?

The lumbar belt worked for me.  I noticed that I was able to move around more easily.  This is the entire point to wearing a lower back belt:  to help you move a little easier.

Movement is key in reducing the pain the in the long run.

A back belt won't cure any ailments you may be suffering from, but it can make movement a little easier.  You should also see a medical professional if the pain persists for more than five days.

How Does A Back Brace Work?

Lumbar support actually places pressure on your abdominal muscles which in turn takes the pressure off your back muscles.

There's a lot of team work happening within the muscle groups in our bodies.  Our abdominal muscles, obliques, and back muscles all work together so that we can stand upright and move about freely.

Back braces and lumbar supports also limit the movement of the spine which aids the recovery process.

When Should I Wear A Back Brace?

How often you should wear a back brace depends on your pain.  A rule of thumb is if you are in pain, wear the support.  Nevertheless, you should not wear the back belt for an extended period if you are not experiencing pain.

Two different kinds of pain are usually associated with herniated disc-acute and chronic.  Acute pain comes on strong but soon subsides, and chronic pain is continual, as the name suggests.  For chronic pain, it is recommended to wear the brace until the pain lessens.

If you are experiencing many episodes of acute pain, you can wear the support for the whole day.  Also, if you can identify which activities lead to a flare-up, you should be mindful of wearing the brace while performing those tasks.

When Should I NOT Wear Lumbar Support?

Some individuals experience subacute pain which is when the acute episodes last for a long time but not as long as chronic. Chiropractors urge people to start wearing a supportive device as soon as subacute pain begins to reduce the likelihood of it becoming chronic.

However, you should not wear a back belt for more than two weeks straight because it can lead to adverse effects. Negative effects that can occur if you wear it for more than two weeks are the muscles begin to rely on the brace which leads to their weakening ultimately increasing the likelihood of getting another injury.

Lumbar Support: The Big Controversy

Some controversies are surrounding the use of back supportive belts for lower lumbar pain of any kind.

The main issue some medical professionals caution against is the weakening of supportive spinal muscles. These muscles consist of the back and deep abdominal muscles.

It is critical to keep the spinal muscles strong to prevent other back injuries.  Therefore, it is vital to avoid severely weakening these muscles and only wearing the artificial support for a few days at a time.  Even then, researchers suggest using proper lifting techniques and easing back into strenuous work.

Another controversy is the risk of increasing blood pressure and heart rate.  These arguments are especially critical if you are at risk for hypertension.

Finally, some medical professionals argue that people who use back braces can get a false sense of security and begin to lift improperly or attempt to lift heavier objects then they should.

These controversies are essential to consider when you have a herniated disc and are thinking of using a supportive belt.  However, for those without the risk of hypertension being mindful of not becoming dependent on the brace and learning to lift correctly does not mean you cannot enjoy the benefits a back belt has to offer.

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Marty L.