Upper Back Braces for Back Pain: Do You Need One?

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Upper back pain comes in many forms that some people experience at least once in their lifetime. It can be a pain around the shoulder blade, around the neck area, along the upper back, or others. But when the occasional upper back and neck pain becomes worse or persistent, then it might be time to consider upper back braces and other pain relief treatments.

So when should patients start wearing upper back braces for their back pain? A posture corrector brace can help relieve chronic back pain by providing additional support to the upper and lower back spine and muscles. It’s often recommended for patients with moderate scoliosis (with a curvature of 25° to 50°) to promote good posture and alleviate chronic pain. People may also use nonprescription posture correctors, but it’s crucial to wear them with caution.

What You Should Know About Back Braces for Upper Back Pain

Upper back or thoracic spine pain is a common pain problem experienced even by healthy individuals regardless of their age. While its prevalence is lower than low back pain, around 15.6% to 19.5% of people still suffer from chronic pain in their thoracic spine.

There are lots of possible reasons why people may experience pain in their upper back, including poor posture, sports injuries, car accidents, muscle tension, and more. It may also be a symptom of a spinal condition like spinal stenosis, scoliosis, bulging disc, kyphosis, and osteoarthritis to name a few. 

If chronic upper back pain affects your quality of life and prevents you from doing daily tasks comfortably, then you should consult a spine or pain management specialist about possible treatment options. Depending on the cause of chronic pain, they may recommend using flexible braces to support the thoracic spine and relieve pain.

Who Can Benefit from Using Back Braces?

An individual may use a posture brace for their back if they need spine stabilization after surgery, trauma, or injury. It’s also used to correct bad posture or provide additional support to the back when dealing with work activities that increase back strain. 

Some scoliosis patients need medical advice first before they can start wearing rigid braces for their backs. A doctor’s evaluation determines if the back brace is beneficial for the patient. They also provide additional details about wearing the back brace – how many hours it should be worn, what type of back brace to use, and how to properly wear it to prevent further injury.

Some individuals may also wear nonprescription braces to help promote proper posture, as well as alleviate upper and lower back pain. But note that, it’s crucial to wear these devices according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid adding strain and pressure to the thoracic and lumbar spine.

What Are the Uses of Back Braces for Upper Back Pain?

Back braces can help correct posture and fix rounded shoulders even without the need for surgery, but it also has lots of other benefits for patients with upper back pain. Here are some of its uses and benefits:

  • Prevent unnecessary movement: Sometimes, immobilization is needed for the back to heal properly after surgery or injury. Back braces prevent major movements in the upper back area to speed up healing and avoid further injuries.
  • Promote better posture: Upper back braces keep the back straight, the chest up, and the core tucked in. This prevents the patient from slouching and ruining their good posture.
  • Relieve back pain: Some movements trigger mild to severe back pain, but wearing back braces can prevent this by limiting the patient’s movements. The additional support from these braces also relieves strain on the spine, resulting in pain reduction.
  • Strengthen core and back muscles: Back braces force a tucked tummy and straight spine, pushing the abdominal muscles to support the body instead of the spine. Some people even wear upper back braces during exercise to strengthen their core.

Will a Back Brace Help With Upper Back Pain?

Yes, even a lumbar back brace can help relieve upper back pain if used correctly. These devices are used to decompress the spine and reduce the load on the important structures in the back, like the bones, muscles, discs, and others. A decrease in pressure also results in reduced muscle tension, which aids in upper back pain relief.

But for back braces to work as intended, patients must strictly follow the instructions of their doctor or physical therapist. Having a positive attitude about wearing braces also leads to more effective results, so it’s essential to have support and encouragement from friends and family throughout the treatment.

Back braces are usually recommended for short-term use. Wearing an upper or lower back brace longer than intended may lead to muscle weakness and dependence on the device. It’s still important to treat the root cause of upper back pain for patients to experience long-term pain relief.

Upper Back Pain: Where Should I Place a Back Brace?

There are many different types of back braces depending on where they’re placed and the kind of support they provide for the patient’s back. For most scoliosis patients, rigid braces are the most helpful but they should be worn for about 16 to 23 hours per day.

For individuals who only use upper back braces to correct their posture and relieve pain in their neck, shoulders, and upper back, a simple posture corrector brace is their best option. These braces are usually placed around the upper and middle parts of the back. A typical upper back brace comes with shoulder straps and a support belt to keep the upper back upright.

How to Wear a Back Brace for Upper Back Pain

Upper back braces are best worn on top of a shirt to maximize the patient’s comfort. Different upper back braces come with specific instructions from the manufacturer, but most of them are worn this way:

  1. Loosen or unhook all the adjustable straps or attachments of the upper back brace.
  2. Stand up straight and correct your posture. Standing flatly with the back against the wall can help you get into the right position.
  3. Put the upper back brace on and tighten the straps and hooks. Make sure that you experience some tension or tightness against your body without it being too uncomfortable.
  4. Make sure to only wear the braces as recommended to avoid adding unnecessary pressure on the back and worsening your condition.

Does Insurance Cover Upper Back Braces?

Yes, insurance providers like Medicaid, Medicare, and other private insurance providers pay for medically necessary back braces. They’re usually qualified as durable medical equipment (DME) that helps patients improve their condition. But first, you must present a prescription from a doctor who recommended the back brace. The device should also meet specific DME requirements which are:

  • Durable
  • For home use
  • Medically necessary
  • Not useful for people who aren’t injured or sick
  • Has a minimum lifespan of 3 years

For patients who are unsure if their insurance will cover the back brace, it’s best to consult their insurance company first before buying anything. They should also present the needed documents, as well as the prescription from the doctor.

4 Best Back Braces for Upper Back Pain

There are lots of upper back braces available in the market, but only a few of these nonprescription braces are effective in relieving back pain and providing the right support for the back. Here are some of the best ones you can find:

1) Truweo Posture Corrector for Men and Women

Truweo is one of the best upper back braces in the market considering its low price tag. It’s a high-quality posture corrector that prevents slouching and provides adequate support to the shoulder and clavicle area. Users can still feel the support from the braces even when they’re sitting, walking, working out, or performing other daily activities. The material is lightweight and washable, so it can be worn over or under clothes.

2) BackEmbrace

BackEmbrace features uniquely adjusting straps for retracting the shoulders without pinching or chafing the underarms. It’s an upper back brace made for women who want to correct their posture as they wear stylish clothes. 

3) Upright GO 2 Posture Corrector

This smart and strapless device attaches to the upper back to help users with their daily posture improvement goals. It comes with a free smartphone app that generates a customized training program for the user. The Upright GO 2 comes with multi-sensor technology that vibrates when the user slouches or changes their position. 

4) FlexGuard Posture Corrector

The FlexGuard Posture Corrector comes with a support belt for the lower back and a posture corrector for the upper back, allowing users to have proper spine alignment. It comes in a wide range of sizes and adjustable shoulder straps for the perfect fit.

What to Use to Support Upper Back Pain If Braces Don’t Work

Upper back braces and posture correctors are effective in relieving back pain for most patients, but they may not work as well for others. Depending on the severity of your upper back pain and what causes it, doctors may recommend physical therapy and other treatment options for lasting pain relief. Aside from upper back braces, using an ergonomic chair at home or in the office can alleviate some pain and tension in the back. 

Upper Back Pain Relief Treatments and More at Gramercy Pain Center

Pain problems like sciatica and chronic pain in the upper back are common, but they’re manageable with the right treatments. In some cases, a back-and-shoulder brace or posture corrector is recommended to relieve tension in the back and fix a bad posture. They’re also essential in preventing the spine condition from worsening.

For long-lasting pain relief, consult our pain management experts at Gramercy Pain Center today about the best treatment options for you. Our caring and competent staff are here to help you diagnose the cause of your upper back pain and recommend the most effective treatment plans based on your condition and lifestyle. Call us today to book your first appointment.

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