Your back is one of the most important areas of your body. It houses your spine, inside which is your spinal cord– the long, thin, tubular structure that connects your peripheral nervous system to your brain and lets your various body parts communicate. Your ribcage relies on your spine and other parts of your back for support. Several key organs– such as your lungs and kidneys– depend on your back for protection. That’s why the skin on your back is thicker and has less nerve endings compared to skin on other parts of your body.
If anything happens to any of the many complex parts of your back, pain can often be the result. One common cause of back pain is physical stress. Any frequent, repetitive motion can affect your back health– particularly if you’re not in good overall shape. Injuries are another source of back pain. A sudden impact can rupture the disks in your back or cause them to bulge and become inflamed. Arthritis and osteoporosis can also cause back issues, as can scoliosis and other types of skeletal irregularities.
Back braces provide a safe, inexpensive, surgery-free and drug-free way to alleviate back pain. There are many types of back braces to choose from, ranging from fancy electronic back braces with built-in heating and massage features to ergonomically designed maternity belts for pregnant women and more.
Here are the best back braces you can buy:
- The second layer of Mueller’s 255 Lumbar Support Back Brace contains small steel springs, which add extra reinforcement when you need more support.
- Sparthos’ Mesh Back Brace is ideal for summer weather because its unique fabric blend is breathable and lightweight, yet sturdy enough to stabilize.
- Fire Team Fit’s Weightlifting Belt is the best back brace for the gym because it’s more comfortable than most and comes with a lifetime warranty.
- Detachable suspenders and sewn-in support ribs called “Sticky Fingers” stop the Ergodyne ProFlex 2000SF Back Support Brace from sliding around on your body.
- Disc Disease Solution’s Lumbar Decompression Belt is inflatable and comes with a pressure gauge. This makes it the ideal choice for people with issues related to spine compression.
The best steel-reinforced back brace
Mueller 255 Lumbar Support Back Brace
The most interesting thing about Mueller’s 255 Lumbar Support Back Brace is that it has a removable second layer that’s lined with small, sewn-in steel springs. You can wrap the second layer around the first layer of the brace when you need extra back support. There’s also a removable lumbar pad, which helps improve your posture when you’re sitting and standing.
- Steel springs provide extra reinforcement. The supportive metal springs contained in this brace’s removable second layer give you extra rigidity when you need it.
- Customizable support. If the first layer of the brace doesn’t provide enough support, add the brace’s second layer and attach the removable lumbar pad.
- Extra wide design. Since it’s about eight inches wide, it feels similar to a weightlifting belt.
- Fastens on the front. You can loop the brace around your back and add as much tension as you desire in the front.
- Fits most body types. The two available sizes– regular and plus Size– fit waists that measure as small as 28 or as large as 70 inches around.
- Can be worn discreetly. If you only wear the first layer of the brace, you can hide it with loose-fitting clothing.
- The steel springs add extra weight. This disadvantage may not affect you if you plan on using this back brace to improve your sitting posture, but it could slow you down if you plan on walking in it.
- The fabric and straps are somewhat abrasive. The edges of the velcro straps sometimes cause chafing.
In a nutshell
If you’re looking for a firm, supportive back brace that mimics the feel of a weightlifting belt, Mueller’s 255 Lumbar Support Back Brace may be worth a look Its heaviness is somewhat mitigated by the fact that you can remove its second layer.
The best breathable back brace for hot weather
Sparthos Mesh Back Brace
Many back braces– particularly the kind that are designed to offer extra support– will leave your stomach and back feeling extra hot and sweaty during the summer months. That’s where Sparthos’ Mesh Back Brace comes in. Even though it’s stretchy, it’s still sturdy enough to provide considerable back support, thanks to its sewn-in support stays and removable lumbar pad. The majority of this brace is made from flexible elastic.
- The breathable fabric won’t make you sweat. This brace’s strong yet porous fabric won’t weigh you down or make you feel hot.
- Fits under most types of clothes. You can wear it discreetly underneath a loose shirt or a blouse.
- Removable lumbar pad. The lumbar pad is designed to help stabilize your back when you drive or sit in a chair.
- Three different size options. The three different sizes accommodate waists that are as small as 26 to as large as 72 inches around.
- Industrial strength velcro. The velcro straps last longer than ordinary velcro and have more holding power.
- You can wear it when you exercise. This back brace is lightweight enough to wear to the gym or when you take a jog around the block.
- May not fit women with curvy waists. The unisex design works for most body types, but full-figured women may have trouble getting this brace to stay in place.
- Not machine washable. The cleaning instructions indicate that you have to hand wash in mild soap and then air dry.
In a nutshell
If you need a back brace but the thought of a damp and soggy midsection has stopped you from buying one, you may want to give this one a try. Other back braces offer more support, but this one is light enough to wear when it’s hot outside.
The best back brace for weightlifters
Recent studies have blown apart the myth that back braces prevent you from developing muscle strength when you work out. Rather than impede your workout progress, a back brace can actually help increase the rate at which you develop your core. Fire Team Fit’s Weightlifting Belt was designed by a former marine. It’s not only tough, but also more comfortable than most back braces you’ll find in athletic stores.
- Easy to use. Just fasten the velcro straps and you’re all set.
- Designed with comfort in mind. This belt’s wide ends and narrow sides are specifically designed to prevent rubbing and chafing.
- Built to last. The double-stitching and simple but effective metal buckle are designed to resist wear and tear.
- Great customer support. People who bought this belt seemed especially pleased with the way they were treated by customer support.
- Veteran owned and operated. Fire Team Fit donates $1 of each sale to the Raider Project– a charity that helps war veterans adapt to civilian life after they come home.
- Comes in many different patterns and colors. 11 different designs are available, ranging from plain colors to star-spangled and camouflage designs.
- Lifetime warranty. If your belt ever breaks, just send it back and get a new one.
- May not be ideal for bodybuilders. While this belt is fine for most people, you may need more support if your workout routine requires that you lift very heavy weights.
The best back brace that comes with detachable suspenders
Ergodyne ProFlex 2000SF Back Support Brace
Ergodyne’s ProFlex 2000SF comes equipped with several unique features stop it from moving around on your body: detachable suspenders, patented “Sticky Finger” supports and a uniquely designed strap that holds its removable support panels in place. Another nice perk: it straps on in the front. This makes it very easy to put on and take off.
- Suspenders stop the brace from sliding down. The fact that you can detach them when you don’t need them adds additional value.
- A unique, patented feature prevents it from riding up. Ergodyne’s Sticky Finger supports add rigidity while also helping secure the brace around your waist.
- Stretchy and tough. The body of the brace is made from 840D spandex, which is much thicker than ordinary spandex but still flexible and stretchable.
- Eight different sizes are available. Size your waist with a tape measure before you buy to find the right fit.
- Easy to put on and remove. Some back braces are hard to put on because they need to be fastened in the back, but this one can be fastened in the front.
- Add or remove the included support panels as needed. Another patented feature helps keep the support panels in place once you slide them in.
- Not everyone will appreciate this brace’s stretchiness. If you prefer the feel of stiff back braces– like the kinds weightlifters use– this brace may take some getting used to.
In a nutshell
This back brace is very reasonably priced, considering all the features you get. The removable back supports and suspenders give you the ability to customize the brace to suit a variety of different applications. On the other hand, some won’t like how the spandex material compresses your midsection when you tighten it up.
The best inflatable back brace for spine decompression
Symptoms of spine compression can include numbness, weakness, pain– and even loss of bowel and bladder control. Back braces like Disc Disease Solutions’ DDS G2 Lumbar Decompression Belt offer a solution that doesn’t involve drugs or surgery. All you have to do is wrap this belt around your waist and then pump it up with as much air as you need.
- Shifts your body weight away from your spine. This belt is specially designed to shift weight away from the sensitive areas of the lower back.
- Easy to clean and maintain. Unlike many similar back braces, this one is machine washable.
- Extra comfort. The padded lining inside the brace prevents chafing and adds comfort.
- Fits most body types. Available sizes range from small to triple XL. Specific sizing information is available on Disc Disease Solution’s product page.
- Easy to use. Just use the hand pump to apply as much upward pressure as you need.
- Find the perfect level of air pressure. The Lumbar Decompression Belt Comes with a gauge, which helps you identify the optimal level of inflation for you.
- You can wear it under your clothes. This brace is slim enough to fit under a loose shirt or blouse.
- Lacks a heating feature. Some inflatable decompression belts come with an optional heater, but this one does not.
Buying guide for back braces
Durability vs. advanced features
In general, simpler back braces tend to last a bit longer compared to back braces that have more advanced features like built-in heating. The more moving parts a back brace has, the more can go wrong with it. One way to extend the life of a back brace is to rotate between several different ones. This can also help with cleaning, since you’ll be able to wear your backup back brace when your main one is in the laundry.
Do you mind if other people can see that you’re wearing a back brace?
Some types of back braces can be worn under clothes, but others can only be worn on top of clothes. If you don’t care if your friends, family or coworkers see you in a back brace, there’s no need for concern. However, if you’d prefer to remain discreet, this is something to consider before you buy. The main trade-off with back braces that can be worn beneath clothing is that they typically don’t offer as much support.
Buckle-style straps are generally sturdier and longer-lasting compared to velcro straps. However, there are some exceptions. Medical-grade velcro is very tough and lasts for a very long time. In addition, velcro style straps tend to stay in place better.
Skin sensitivities and allergies
Check the manufacturer’s website and/or Amazon product page to determine what your prospective back brace is made of before you buy it. This will let you avoid purchasing back braces that are made out of any materials that you are sensitive to or don’t like. One way to avoid coming into contact with a back brace is to wear it over your clothes– but this may or may not be a viable option, depending on your personal preferences.
Keeping your back brace clean
You probably won’t get much use out of your back brace if it’s a hassle to clean. Most back brace manufacturers provide maintenance tips on their websites and/or Amazon product pages. Find out everything you need to do to keep your back brace fresh before you buy.
Some back brace manufacturers accommodate very small and large body sizes, but others don’t. Measure yourself and find out if the size you need is available before you buy.
Return policy and customer service
Even if you do measure yourself properly, you may discover that your back brace doesn’t fit after it arrives in the mail. Find out about the return policy before you commit.
You can get a nice basic back brace for around $30 to $40. Most back braces that are designed for lifting weights fall into this range, as do pregnancy support belts.
If you want more features, be prepared to spend a few extra dollars. Back braces that have built-in massagers and/or heating features typically cost anywhere from $50 to $60.
The most expensive type of back braces are those that have niche features like inflatable air bladders, metal reinforcers and magnets that help improve circulation. These usually cost $70 or more.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Do back braces really reduce back pain?
A: The short answer is: yes. In a study published by the peer-reviewed medical journal Practical Pain Management, researchers gave eight men and eleven women lumbar support back braces to measure their effectiveness in reducing back pain. The participants reported that their back braces reduced pain by 41% percent immediately.
Q: Will my health care plan pay for my back brace?
A: That depends on what type of coverage you have. Most health insurance companies classify back braces as durable medical equipment, or DME. If you’re on Medicare, up to 80% of your expenses may be covered by your plan.
Q: How often should I wear my back brace?
A: If you use your back brace all the time, the muscles in your back may begin to weaken. To stop this from happening, you may want to consider performing exercises that target those muscles to make sure that they stay in good shape. Check with your doctor or chiropractor to learn how often you should wear your back brace.
Tips and tricks
- Wear your back brace with light, breathable clothes and try to avoid heavy, moisture absorbing fabrics. Nylon shirts and blouses pair well with back braces because nylon wicks sweat away, plus it’s breathable and won’t overheat you. Polyester is suitable as well, as are clothes that are made from bamboo pulp.
- Whatever back brace that you buy, be sure to read the instructions first to find out how you should wear it. If you wear your back brace the wrong way, you could make your back problem even worse.
- It’s a good idea to not only check with a medical professional before you buy a back brace, but also afterwards to make sure that it’s having a positive effect on your health.