Depending on your injury or condition, chiropractors may incorporate a back brace, a splint, or taping of your affected area. These additional items are typically only necessary when the problem is acute (new) and severe. They can be added to support and decrease the pain.
A back brace is particularly helpful when we suspect a disc problem (like a herniated disc) or if the pain just won’t subside during the initial phase of the injury. If a back brace is going to help, we will find the appropriate size and show you how to put it on while you’re in the office. You will usually know right away if it’s going to help, when pain levels significantly drop once the brace is put in place. Problems involving the SI joint are not helped as much by a back brace, so we may tape if necessary.
The back brace acts as a support, making up for any lack of muscle strength and support around your spine.
In effect, it can give you an indicator of how your back would feel if you had stronger supporting muscles. Long term use of the back brace is not recommended, as your muscles will continue to weaken if they’re not being asked to support your spine. While the back brace is a huge help when the injury is new or is currently inflamed, you’ll want to discontinue use of the brace as soon as you’re able. For most patients this means they will wear the brace for approximately 1-2 weeks.
Some patients are very afraid they will atrophy during the initial couple of weeks, but the process is slow. Wearing a back brace for just a few weeks will not cause lasting weakness in the muscles. It’s only when the use of the back support becomes habitual that you begin to see long-term muscle weakness.
A splint is more commonly used on the wrist or on the ankle to provide support or protection. It will be rigid and hold the joint in a non-painful position. While it will also cause your muscle to grow weaker, these areas usually bounce back more quickly, so you can wear the splint during the time the injury takes to heal — generally 4 – 6 weeks.
Back brace or taping?
Taping is catching on a way to support your muscles and the injured area for several days following treatment. Special tape, called kinesiotape, can be cut to various shapes and lengths and then applied to the injured area to provide some support once you leave the office. While not as strong or as restrained as a brace, you’ll be surprised at how much being taped will help when you need it.
Commonly, you will see athletes with kinesiotape around areas of that are injured and will need extra support during activity. Shoulders, knees, and calf muscles may be taped during competition to provide that additional support to help them perform better and prevent re-injury of the affected area.
All of these supports are very helpful in doing just that, support. They don’t fix anything, but they do reduce the strain and aggravation on your body so that you have a chance to heal. Your chiropractic doctor will recommend a brace, a support, or taping when your condition calls for it. However, if you feel that your condition will be helped by a support, please mention it during your office visit.
For a great article on whether or not taping actually works, check out this post from Breaking Muscle. Most patients will tell you they feel an immediate difference, but research may not support this.