When you first start to suffer from back pain, or notice your posture changing for the worse, your first reaction will likely be to look up a back brace. These support devices can be a way to relieve pain in the immediate future without the need for drugs, or improve posture day to day. Whatever your need is, there is a brace specifically designed to help you out.
A lot of people sit down all day in their day jobs, and being active and sporty is becoming increasingly fashionable, so the demand for back support is going up. This means there is a wide range of back support straps available on the market now, with each one having a different design and approach behind it.
Almost all belts are made to be universal, however some types will offer features that might be preferable to women or men. You’ll find when you come to your search that sizes are normally set and there can be no difference between male and female size ranges.
Here we want to give you a brief introduction to some of the most popular support brace styles out there. It’s important when buying one, that you have a good idea what you need from it. So for each design we’ll briefly explain what they do best and who they are likely to suit most.
Figure of eight shoulder braces
These are usually compact and small in size. The figure of eight comes from two hoops, usually made from highly stretchy material, that are meant to wrap around your shoulders. They can be one of the most affordable types of brace on the market and are normally very simple in styling and design.
The principle aim with these supports is to help prevent the wearer from hunching over. The tight loops around your shoulders pull your arms back and help keep your back and neck up straight. Users can commonly complain of discomfort from long usage due to many figure of eight braces being reasonably tight. It is also typical for that this style of brace to be a set shape, and not offer adjustment capabilities.
If you suffer from a mild or intermediate hunch back posture, this should definitely be one of the types of brace you try first. Some users will love their flexible, easy to pack and compact shape. Some designs are designed to have very robust loops so that the device can also be used as a pulling training tool.
These can be very popular for very active types, or women looking for the most practical type of brace available. Figure of eight shoulder braces can be folded and tucked nicely into a medium bag or perhaps smaller.
Simple support belts
Support belts are meant to wrap around your waist only. They are commonly made from breathable light materials, as many users will want to wear them under clothing. Many support belts will have an emphasis on lumbar compression.
The key aim of these braces is to fasten around your lower back areas, compressing your muscles and helping you keep your back in a recovering form. They are relatively simple items, so price ranges are
generally lower than larger types. They are typically very flexible, and can commonly be adjusted to suit the wearer’s level of preferred tightness.
They are designed for people suffering pain in the lumbosacral part of the spine, lower back injury recovery, and conditions like nephroptosis. If you have pain in your upper back, higher up your spine or around your shoulders, these belt braces are unlikely to be sufficient.
Full back posture correction braces without stays
Braces that help with posture and conditions like kyphosis will generally have a belt section combined to upper body elements. These can vary widely in quality, price and the fabrics. Those designed to be worn under clothing will generally be made from high percentages of natural fabric, this allows them to breathe well. While those made from synthetic materials might offer more stretch, a more robust structure and be better suited for wearing over your clothes.
These full posture correction supports cover more of your back and are usually higher priced than support belts or figure of eights as they require more material. What you get is a brace that helps to align the entirety of your back and spine, as opposed to just upper or lower areas.
One of the key selling points full back braces will emphasise, is their ability to help with pain relief. The more of an area that is compressed the more pain relief will likely be provided. So if you are looking for the most effective pain relief back brace, it’s a good idea to aim for one that most tightly wraps around the area where you feel pain.
Stays are firm boning elements that can be incorporated into the structure of these types of brace to help force wearers to keep their backs straight. Stays are usually two long pieces of firm material that run along the spine area. Some users will find them too abrasive and restricting, while others will appreciate the benefits of having a strong forceful support element in place.
Posture correction braces without stays will try to create this effect in an alternative way. They typically feature straps that sit wider on the wearer’s shoulders, which applies pressure to keep the shoulders back. Having this constant force holding your shoulders back will help you keep a more upright posture, standing straight and keeping your spine upright.
Full back posture correction braces with stays
In some full posture correction designs that feature stays, it is possible to remove the stays from the brace. This gives you the option to control how long you have them in place. Many brace designs that use stays will have straps that come over your shoulder closer to your neck, as opposed to being placed wider like those that do not use stays.
Stays can come in different varieties of strength and firmness. If you find one set too rigid and uncomfortable, it can be possible to replace them with softer versions for a less forceful experience while wearing the brace. The more upmarket options will provide alternative stay sets of differing firmness with the brace itself.
Braces with stays are best suited to those who want a more aggressive device to help encourage correct alignment of the dorsal and lumbar spine. Such braces cover large areas of the back offering widespread compression. This enables them to help provide support to a wider array of muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Using such braces can cause some high levels of discomfort during the early stages. Many brace manufacturers suggest that this is a sign that the brace is actively correcting your alignment. Wearers should never ignore severe levels of pain or discomfort. If you use braces reinforced with stays, and it seems to cause such suffering, it is best to stop and seek medical advice before continuing.
Medical braces vs non-certified back braces
Braces that have been created by manufacturers that have had them certified by official medical agencies should clearly state so in their descriptions. When products are medically certified they are given grades. Medically graded back braces will be of higher quality and are likely to prove more satisfying than those that are not certified at all.
The increased quality comes with higher price ranges. But medically graded items will be designed to be more effective, made from better quality materials that feel nicer to touch, and often have the look of
product that is made to a higher standard.
Higher quality braces can often be made from natural fabrics. While this can make them highly breathable, softer and more presentable, it can also mean that they require certain cleaning practices. You should always read the label of a product before cleaning it to ensure you don’t create any surprise damage or shrinkage.
If you want simple and cheap, and you have only lower back pain or mild hunching, you might want to try out either of the first two options. Those recovering or suffering from more serious conditions will likely be better served by a full posture and spine alignment brace. For maximum impact try one with stays, for lesser force try one without.
If you want the best braces on the market, it’s best to stick to those that have medical certification and official grading. Whatever your circumstances there is a back brace that is suitable for your condition and goals.
It’s always best to read descriptions and specifications carefully before buying. It can also be a common issue for users to buy the wrong size. Make sure you find out the exact dimensions of the sizes before selecting one. Not all set sizes will be based on the same sets of measurements, so be sure to check out the details provided by each individual vendor.