Can any of you recommend a good back brace?

Hi Everyone,

My husband was diagnosed with chronic osteoarthritis in his lower back six months ago and apparently nothing can be done about it. He is really suffering with the pain. He's tried the prescribed strong pain killers which do help but make him feel sick. The over-the-counter painkillers have no effect. I've been looking into getting him a back brace for support but there are so many to choose from online I don't know where to start! Can any of you recommend one? What we'd love is to be able to go into a shop (we're based in Surrey) and try some but I can't find any such outlet. Any advice gratefully received.

Many thanks for your time.

8 Replies

  • Sorry to hear that your husband is in so much pain, I have osteoarthritis throughout my spine. I would recommend avoiding using a back brace as this will deterioate the muscles. I would definately recommend chair yoga which you find on youtube as a way of improving posture and muscle tone. This does help to make the spine more flexible and relieve pain. Just take it easy at first and you soon find you get better at it in time. Good luck

  • Many thanks for your reply Maddie and sorry to hear you are also in the wars. We'll give the chair yoga a try.

  • Hi TamsinRush

    I have spinal stenosis (caused my multiple prolapsed discs) and degenerative scoliosis. Meaning lots of pain.

    I agree about the back support, it will make things worse long-term.

    I also agree about strengthening the muscles that support the back. This is definitely the single most important thing your husband could do in my opinion. Unfortunately that means exercise. It's very important to do the right things as otherwise it might cause problems. I have been seeing a very good personal trainer with lots of experience of back problems. Not cheap but well worth it for effective and safe pain relief. And after being in agony for a year non-stop I would have sold my children to pay for it. Well, car maybe.

    A physio would also be able to help and your GP would be the person to see about that at first. Only reason I didn't go this route is because you would get a few sessions if lucky and the rest is up to you. The benefit of a PT is that they make you do it! If motivation is not your husband's strong point, this.

    It has the added benefit of increasing fitness, after only 8 - 10 weeks of 3-4 sessions a week (not all with a PT), my resting heart rate is lower now than 15 years ago. Which means I feel much, much better in myself.

    I'm not going to pretend it's easy or that it will 'cure' the pain. It isn't and it won't. There will be lots of times, both during and after exercise, that he thinks it is more bother than it is worth. But it will help him to manage the pain and feel much more in control. And it does get easier as the muscles adapt and get stronger.

    With regards the pain killers, the nausea will go off as he gets used to them, but they are a dangerous thing to take for chronic pain relief. They are quite addictive and difficult to stop. And if the pain is still there, even harder. There are also some health issues with long-term opiate use, although there is with most medication and some of the horror stories are a little far-fetched IMO and IME. At the end of the day, as always, it is a balance between cost (to oneself) and benefit. Pain is a horrible thing.

    Personally I would say be wary of anyone that says they can fix things with a tablet or a bit of manipulation / 'natural' remedy / herbal whatever. Even if something helped short-term it won't help medium to long-term. Strengthening the muscles that support the spine will, it will take some of the pressure off the spine itself and that may also help slow the progression of the condition.

    One more thing, you don't mention your husband's age or weight, but if he is older than 35 it will be harder to get those muscles stronger, but NOT impossible. It just takes a little longer the older we get. Also if he is carrying some extra weight, losing it would be a very, very good idea. The exercise will help with that, as will a personal trainer. Pain tends to stop you being so active and this contributes to weight-gain. Some small tweaks to his diet may be essential.

    I hope he takes some of this on board, it might not be what he wants to hear, but if his pain is bad enough he will (eventually) try anything. The longer he leaves it the harder it will get as well, when in pain we avoid doing certain things and this very quickly leads to muscle wastage.

    Good luck!


  • Ask for a Physio appointment and discuss the necessary options with one who should know the answers.

  • I had bought a back Brace and my dr told me not to use it as it won't help as hadn't been in an accident .

  • Hi Tamsin,

    Although it is better to avoid using a brace on a day to day basis, as others have said, I find I do have to use one for the odd day, maybe two, when things are bad to get me over a hurdle and moving again.

    I take the view that if things are so bad I'm not moving (therefore not using any muscles to any degree), anything I can do to get moving again is a good idea. As soon as I'm moving again, I stop using it, as I completely agree that keeping and increasing supportive muscle tone is vital.

    I keep one at home and one in the car just in case but very rarely used. Doctors will say they do no good, however I don't care. Whether they act as a mental 'security blanket' or not doesn't really worry me. Not moving worries me. Losing any more of my life worries me.

    There are several websites that come up if you google eg and physioroom. But I actually bought mine from Boots. Many different types but what I find handy is a style where you can slip either warming or particularly cooling packs into the back area. You can get warming or cooling packs from loads of different places that are used for many conditions eg sports use (Deep heat lotions are a complete waste of time as they never reach below the top surface of the skin.).

    If you have the need for a large (smallish pillow size) cooling pad, google Chillow. Chillows are brilliant and can be used for all sorts of things from arthritis to menopause/illness flushes to under dogs in warm cars!

    For pain, the other thing that I'm going to try is capsaicin gel/cream. It's prescription only, so get your husband to ask his doctor about it, if you're interested, but seems to have had very positive results in improving pain and joint tenderness. Look at the site, the report on complimentary medicines. A supplement called SAMe also seems to have had good feedback but is not easily available in the UK and it is difficult to know the quality of the product available. I've taken maximum doses of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate for 10 years now but the OA is still slowly progressing so I'm not sure if it's done any good at all. Expensive too.

    As has already been mentioned, keeping weight down, keeping moving, keeping exercising and muscle tone and seeing a physiotherapist (one that actually has expertise with spine osteoarthritis - not all do) when necessary, are all really, really important - especially when severe pain makes you want to keep in any position, rock still, to minimise the pain. If you haven't done so already, finding a good, experienced physiotherapist will be able to help. If you don't know where to find one, your GP or surgery should be able to recommend one.

  • Thank you all so much for taking the time and trouble to give me your advice. Which we have taken on board. My husband will only be using a back brace when he needs the extra support like when mowing the lawn which he is determined to carry on doing himself.

    Regarding physiotherapy, he was referred to one by a consultant back in December last year and finally got an appointment in April. He was briefly examined and then sent home with a print out of exercises to do! He is doing these religiously along with some others he found online but it might be time to look for another physio who specialises in osteoarthritis.

    Like badpiglet, he's been taking gluocosamine and chondroitin for a number of years. We've tried all manner of things to help with the pain, including complimentary, to no avail. He's allergic to anti-inflammatory prescription drugs and the stronger pain killers make him sick. On badpiglet's advice, he's going to ask his GP for capsaicin gel to see if this gives him any relief.

    If we manage to find anything that helps, you will certainly be the first to know!

    Best wishes.

  • Hi Tamsin,

    I'd be interested to hear what the GP says about casaicin gel. I'm still waiting to get an appointment with my preferred GP!

    Mowing the lawn is the kind of activity that a brace might help. Alternatively get rid of the grass! Meadows are kind on the back......

    Good luck!

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