Braces for Your Back
Your doctor may prescribe a brace for you to wear after
a spinal injury or surgery. It will immobilize your spine
while you heal and will control pain by restricting your
A medical professional will help provide you with
the type of brace that is the most appropriate and
comfortable for you. This will maximize your benefit
from the brace and enable you to use it with few
Types of back braces
Back braces can be flexible, rigid, or custom molded.
Flexible braces are made from an elastic cotton/nylon
material and are most commonly used to support your
back when lifting, to improve posture, or to relieve low
back pain. This type of brace is similar to a girdle or
Rigid braces contain some flexible material with
some hard plastic inserts and/or metal bars that add
additional support and stability.
Custom-molded braces are made from molded plastic
in two pieces—a front and back piece—that fasten
together. This type of brace is used to immobilize your
spine during recovery from a fracture, spinal surgery, or
correction of scoliosis. To be fitted for this type of brace,
a plaster cast is made of your torso by an orthotist. A
rigid plastic brace is then custom-molded from the cast
to fit your body comfortably and exactly.
flexible brace | rigid brace | custom molded brace
Common rigid and custom-molded back braces include the thoracic-lumbar-sacral brace (TLSO), which supports the upper back, low back, and sacrum, and the lumbarsacral brace, (LSO), which supports the low back and sacrum. Instructions for putting on and removing these types of braces can be viewed by clicking on these links:
TLSO, TLSO with sternal piece, and LSO.
When to wear your brace
It is important to follow your doctor’s specific
instructions for when and how to wear your brace –
especially when sleeping, showering, and engaging in
Learn how to wear your brace during your fitting for
the brace. You will wear the brace after surgery until
your spine has healed or fused, a period that can range
from 4 weeks to 6 months. If you are fitted for your
brace prior to surgery, practice taking it on and off to
increase your familiarity with it. Do not discontinue
wearing the brace until your doctor has instructed you
to do so.
To clean your brace, wipe it with a mild soap and damp
cloth every day. If your brace has padded liners, allow it
to air dry or use a hair dryer on the cool setting. Do not
place your brace or the pads in a clothes dryer.
Your brace will restrict your ability to move. You will
not be able to see your feet, so take care when walking.
Avoid steps and curbs until you are comfortable. When
moving from a lying to a standing position, use your
arm and leg muscles to keep your spine in proper
alignment and “log” roll. Follow your physician’s or
physical therapist’s instructions about exercise.
Showering / skin care
You may remove the brace to shower or sleep unless
your surgeon states otherwise. Watch for reddened or
irritated skin under the brace. Someone should check
areas you cannot see. Skin breakdown may indicate that
the brace does not fit properly.
Icing while wearing your brace
You may apply ice while wearing the brace. Place a
cold pack inside a pillow case and place it over the area
where you are experiencing pain. Place the brace over
the top of the cold pack.
custom molded brace
Custom molded braces
- You should first be fitted for a fabricated back brace
3 to 4 weeks before surgery.
- It is recommended that you pick up your brace and
practice wearing it 2 weeks before your surgery.
- While sitting on the edge of the bed, put the brace
on and take it off without twisting or turning.
- Go to the bathroom and clean yourself with the
brace on. If you find this difficult, assistive devices
are available and can help.
- Never wear the back brace directly against bare skin.
- You may take the brace off while you sleep and
while you shower.
- When the brace is worn correctly, the front should
overlap the back.
- Clean the brace with either rubbing alcohol or soap
and water. The brace is waterproof and can be
rinsed off. DO NOT submerge the brace in water.
- Painful pressure over the incision can be alleviated
by placing 2 maxi pads on the inside of the brace on
either side of the incision. This will create an open
space over the incision and will prevent rubbing.
Brace weaning tips
- Start on the date recommended by your surgeon.
- Start slowly. Remove the brace for 1 hour each
morning and evening. Wear the brace during the
most active parts of the day.
- Add 30 to 60 brace-free minutes to each morning and
evening session every day as tolerated. At this pace, it
should take you 1 to 2 weeks to wean completely.
- Expect some increase in pain through the weaning
- Use ice as instructed.
Sources & links
If you have more questions, please contact Mayfield
Brain & Spine at 800-325-7787 or 513-221-1100.
cervical: the neck portion of the spine made up of
lumbar: lower portion of the spine made up of 5
vertebrae; connects with the fused bones of the
orthotic: another name for a brace
orthotist: a medical professional who specializes in
making custom molded braces.
sacral: the five vertebrae at the base of the spine
that provide attachment for the iliac (hip) bones
and protect the pelvic organs.
thoracic: the middle portion of the spine made up of
Sources & links
If you have questions, please contact Mayfield Brain & Spine at 800-325-7787 or 513-221-1100.
reviewed by: Lisa Cleveland, PT, Mayfield Clinic, Cincinnati, Ohio
Mayfield Certified Health Info materials are written and developed by the Mayfield Clinic. This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your health care provider.