A back brace is an assistive device designed to correct or prevent back problems while at the same time alleviating back pain. There are several different types but all are designed to promote proper spine alignment and posture.
The first supportive back braces to treat conditions like scoliosis were developed some 500 years ago. In the intervening centuries – and particularly in the past 50 years – the design, comfort and effectiveness of these devices has advanced by leaps and bounds.
Today’s back braces are in some ways reflective of most of the technology of our current age: they’re lightweight, easy to use, highly effective and very affordable. Below we’ve brought together the 10 best back braces for 2021.
1. Mueller Lumbar Support Back Brace
The Mueller Lumbar Support Brace is another that provides an adjustable lumbar pad. That, and the fact that it’s very affordable and incredibly easy to adjust, make it value winner. If you lift heavy objects either on the job or at the gym you should consider this well-designed apparatus.
What we like: We appreciate to no end how easy this thing is to use. The lumbar pad is also just the right firmness to provide support without impeding movement. It’s a great choice for anyone suffering from (or wanting to prevent) non-specific lower back pain (1).
The Mueller back brace is all-in on Velcro and that’s good news for those who want quick adjustability and a firm hold. It’s also equally effective for both men and women.
Flaws: It’s not the most comfortable back brace for people carrying some extra weight.
2. NMT Lumbar Support Back Belt
This is a wide back brace that holds your core firmly and promotes good posture while mitigating back pain. It features magnets embedded in the band that are, in theory, supposed to help stimulate blood flow and promote collagen growth. We’re skeptical. But that doesn’t mean the device is without merit. Quite the contrary.
What we like: Regardless of what you think of magnet therapy the brace itself provides a very comfortable and firm hold, doesn’t irritate the skin and is built to last. It’s very easy to apply, works for both men and women and won’t clean out your bank account.
Flaws: Sizing can sometimes be an issue as it tends to run a bit small. Whether or not the magnets provide any benefit seems a matter of opinion.
3. AidBrace Back Brace for Lower Back
The AidBrace features a very simple and effective design that reduces lower back pain while promoting good posture. It’s light and unobtrusive enough to consider wearing running, which means you can also wear it to your next Crossfit session.
What we like: It’s quite comfortable and does a great job compensating for bad posture. The integrated support braces return everything to proper alignment and keep it there. It’s also easy to put on and can be adjusted on the fly with no problem.
If you suffer from a chronic back problem like degenerative disc disease or sciatica you’re bound to enjoy some pain relief and enhanced mobility from this brace.
Flaws: Over time the durability of the plastic support braces may become an issue.
4. ComfyMed CM-102M Back Brace
The CM-102M Back Brace by ComfyMed is comfy alright. It’s also effective at alleviating lower back pain, providing robust lumbar support and protecting you back from injury when lifting heavy objects. It’s a great example of those things that are right about today’s back braces.
What we like: We like how easy it is to put this brace on. No complicated straps, no help required. It’s also a really comfortable brace that can be worn for hours on end without causing problems.
The larger size will fit anyone with up to a 50 inch waist and the easy grip handles make adjustments on the fly fast and effective. If you suffer from lower back pain, regardless of the cause, you will likely be well-served by the ComfyMed CM-102M.
Flaws: Hard to find fault with this one. If we were to quibble we might mention that it’s not particularly easy to clean.
5. Back Brace by Sparthos
The Back Brace by Sparthos is a simple, easy to use brace. It provides an adjustable support pad in the lumbar region that helps stabilize your spine and promote better posture. It slips on quickly, is well-built and will help alleviate lower back pain for most people.
What we like: The adjustable lumbar pad adds an extra level of support and comfort. As a result, it’s one of the best at alleviating lower back pain. We also like how quickly it slips on and the fact that it’s quite breathable.
If you’re suffering from sciatica, general lower back pain or even a herniated disc this lightweight and affordable back brace from Sparthos should provide noticeable pain relief.
Flaws: The feel takes some getting used to. If not installed just right it might also lead to some skin irritation.
6. Old Bones Therapy Back Brace
Old Bones Therapy Back Brace is a great choice for older individuals who are having issues with recurring lower back pain. It’s light and discreet and can be slipped on before you go out to help you run your errands pain free.
What we like: When properly placed there are few similar braces that provide such a sense of physical reassurance. It’s pretty remarkable in that respect. You certainly won’t need any help slipping it on, regardless of your age.
There’s nothing revolutionary here. Just a tried and true design that’s very well executed and can be used to relieve or prevent lower back pain.
Flaws: It’s a pretty rigid brace so it might take some time to get used to. Also, the Velcro doesn’t seem to be of the highest quality.
7. King of Kings Lower Back Brace
In spite of its biblical name the King of Kings Lower Back Brace is a thoroughly modern device. While the copious strapping may raise a few eyebrows and generate a few snickers no one will be laughing once they have it on.
What we like: The brace uses an adjustable pulley system in the back to provide a perfect fit. And in spite of appearances, it’s actually pretty easy to effect those adjustments. It’s also remarkably easy to clean for such a complex-looking device.
The nylon support bars are more durable than the plastic you’ll find in some other braces. And the brace is quite breathable and comfy even on red hot summer days.
Flaws: There will be more than a few people intimidated by all the straps. But if you can get past the somewhat intimidating look you should find relief.
8. Syosin Posture Corrector Back Brace
So far all of our back braces have focused on the lower back. Here’s one that takes the opposite tack. The Syosin Posture Corrector Back Brace slips on like a vest and restores order to your upper back. It’s great for fending off posture-related problems and provides relief from shoulder and upper back pain.
What we like: Not enough back braces address the upper back. So we’re happy to find this one. And even happier that it’s so effective promoting good posture and mitigating pain.
It’s light and insubstantial enough that it doesn’t cause you to sweat up a storm. So you can wear it on summer days on the construction site no problem. Also, much of its firmness is derived from 4 small steel plates embedded in the brace that keep things properly aligned.
Flaws: Anatomically it’s more suited to men than it is to women.
9. Neo G Dorsolumbar Support Brace
There’s no doubt the Neo G Dorsolumbar Support Brace has an intimidating aura. But it’s actually an agreeable pup that is pretty easy to slip into and provides outstanding lumbar and upper back support.
What we like: We like the fact that it addresses the entire back. This makes it a potentially good choice for those with scoliosis. We like the way it returns you back to proper alignment and that it does so in a gentle but firm way.
We also like that it’s thin enough to be worn under just about anything. At least anything you’d normally wear during cooler weather. And that’s not something you can say about the vast majority of back braces.
Flaws: It will likely take some time to find your comfort zone with this back brace. But we’d recommend being patient. Once you find that ideal fit, it’s going to help.
10. Iron Bull Strength Medi-Back Brace
The last of our best back braces comes to us from Iron Bull Strength. Their Medi-Back Brace is yet another simple, easy to use and effective device for minimizing lower back pain. It features what the company calls “thermogenic technology”. Which is a fancy way to say it makes you hot.
What we like: While skeptics might suggest that ‘thermogenic’ is just the marketing department spinning a flaw into a benefit, the brace actually does generate a sense of internal warmth that helps the muscles loosen up and alleviates pain. And that’s a good thing.
The brace also feels very supportive and doesn’t come loose over time like some lesser back braces will. And it’s thin enough to be worn under a suit or any type of cool/cold weather outfit. Whether you gain any added benefit from the thermogenic technology or not it does a great job holding your back in place and reducing pain.
Flaws: It’s a little more expensive than some other back braces on our list. But nothing that’s going to send you to the poor house.
Who Needs a Back Brace?
There are numerous conditions that may call for the use of a back brace. Some are congenital, some the result of traumatic injury, some the result of a chronic condition and others simply a matter of wear and tear or aging. People with scoliosis often benefit from a back brace. So do those with osteoarthritis (2). People with herniated discs (3) can benefit from a back brace. So can those with postural problems. Others who might benefit from a back brace include weightlifters, construction workers and those recovering from back surgery or injury.
How We Ranked
If you think you might need a back brace you should consider taking the matter up with your doctor just to be sure. Wearing a back brace, or any type of assistive device, if it’s not necessary may cause negative ripple effects throughout your physiology. That said, in choosing the braces for this list we took a number of things into consideration.
A back brace is typically something that’s going to be worn for a while. Therefore, it should be built to last. A good back brace is breathable, non-irritating to the skin, has robust stitching and straps that aren’t going to start to fray after a few times wearing the brace. If the brace includes support inserts they should be metal, rather than the cheaper and lighter, (but less durable) plastic.
A good back brace should go on in an intuitive fashion. You shouldn’t need an engineering degree to figure the thing out, or a group of friends to help you get into it. Ideally, you’d be able to figure out how to install it without much trouble even if you lost the directions that came with it. The hallmark of good design is that the brace seems to put itself on. All you need to do is give it a hand.
Comfort is also crucial when it comes to a back brace. It shouldn’t pinch or dig into your ribs. It shouldn’t take your breath away or cause cascading effects like indigestion. You should be able to put it on and enjoy greater mobility, not less.
Of course, depending on the severity of your condition you may need a brace that provides a lot of support and is fairly restrictive, that’s only natural. But if you’re wearing a brace to correct posture or enhance mobility you should be able to achieve a greater range of motion without discomfort by wearing the brace. If you’re not then something’s wrong.
Back braces alleviate lower back pain in most cases. This is the most common benefit people seek when purchasing a back brace and they are rarely disappointed. Most had little idea just how much back pain had been interfering with their normal activities until the back brace freed them of the pain. Though the brace may, in some cases, restrict range of motion being free of some or all of the pain makes that an acceptable tradeoff.
Back braces speed up recovery from surgery or back injuries. In the aftermath of back surgery it’s vital that the patient doesn’t do anything that will compromise the healing process. A back brace can immobilize portions of the back in order to facilitate the recovery process (4) and prevent further damage. Those who have experienced back injuries may also need to restrict certain movements in order to allow bones, muscles, tendons and the like to heal. A back brace can help.
Back braces are easy to use and don’t cost a lot. In that sense they’re both practical and cost-effective. Virtually anyone can put on a back brace and, with a bit of practice, learn how to adjust it to obtain optimal benefits. This is one of the great advantages of back braces. There are a few cautions that come with them though. Such as making sure you choose the right size and type for your body and your particular problem.
Back braces can help treat scoliosis. Scoliosis (5) is a vexing condition wherein the spine develops a sideways curve that produces debilitating pain and severely limits mobility. However, if the condition is diagnosed early enough and the patient wears an appropriate back brace as part of their treatment, recovery may be possible. At the very least they should enjoy a reduction in pain and an increase in mobility.
Back braces can help people with arthritis regain mobility. This is a major issue for those suffering from arthritis. Especially those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (6). While a back brace won’t cure their arthritis it can help make simply movements much easier and reduce the pain load the person has to deal with on a daily basis.
Back braces can help to strengthen your core. When we’re young and full of boundless energy we give our core a thorough workout almost every day just by playing. Once we reach adulthood we become increasingly sedentary and those core stomach and back muscles become progressively weaker. This is often a contributing factor to back injuries (7). A back brace can help strengthen your core muscles which should help you avoid back problems in the long run.
Back braces can prevent injuries from heavy lifting. This is important for anyone who performs manual labor such as loading trucks, doing construction work, stocking shelves or any other tasks that involve lifting weight. And speaking of lifting weight, bodybuilders often find that a good back brace helps them assume a better form and lift more effectively and confidently (8). More often than not they call these devices ‘weightlifting belts’. But in reality they’re a form of back brace.
Back braces can improve posture and prevent future problems. They’re an easy and affordable way to stave off future back problems brought on by slouching. Keep in mind that slouching isn’t just something that occurs while we’re standing. It’s perhaps even more of an issue when we sit. And, since most of us spend more time sitting these days than ever before, we’re opening ourselves up to all kinds of potential long term back problems (9). The right back brace can help fend off those problems.
Back braces can sometimes negate the need for surgery. That sounds like a heady claim but it’s true. If a person has been suffering chronic back pain for some time they may well wind up having to undergo surgery at some point to correct the problem. However, if they begin wearing a supportive back brace early on they may be able to correct the problem before it becomes too serious. This is especially true if the problem is posture-related, or related to heavy lifting.
Back braces can restore the ability to perform basic movements. These movements, such as transitioning from a sitting to a standing position and vise versa, can often be incredibly awkward and painful for those with chronic back problems or non-specific lower back pain (10). A back brace can provide the support necessary to alleviate this pain and restore the person’s ability to perform these basic mobility tasks.
Back braces can help people reclaim their life. To some people, that statement might seem like an exaggeration. But if you’ve ever experienced prolonged periods of significant back pain you know it is not. Chronic back pain can have an enervating effect on every aspect of a person’s life. It can affect their mobility, their performance at work, their relationship with their kids and their mental and emotional state. Perhaps surprisingly teenagers can be just as severely impacted by back pain as adults and often suffer depression as a result (11). A good back brace can help prevent this.
Q: What causes back pain?
A: There is no one single cause for back pain. Although, in most cases it’s the result of wear and tear on the musculoskeletal system. As the years pass all our jumping, running, lifting, walking and poor posture irritate the muscles, bones and nerves of the back. Eventually, something has to give. And when it does we experience back pain. Many doctors warn that our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is a back pain time bomb waiting to go off. But there are a rash of other potential causes as well. Including, degenerative diseases like arthritis, accidents and more.
Q: Will a back brace relieve my back pain?
A: If you purchase a brace to address a particular back issue and wear it as directed the back brace should help relieve your back pain. Depending on the severity of your pain it may or may not provide 100% relief. But if adjusted and worn as directed you should experience some, and perhaps complete, relief from your back pain.
Q: Can a back brace hurt my back?
A: Highly unlikely. About the only way a brace could actually cause or aggravate a back problem is if it were worn improperly over an extended period of time. But that would not be the fault of the brace. As long as you are careful to adjust it properly and wear it as recommended a quality back brace should provide much-needed support and relief.
Q: Should I wear the back brace all day?
A: There are compelling arguments on both sides of this issue. On the one hand there are those who argue that wearing any brace all day every day does little but weaken the back muscles and discourage recovery.
On the other hand there are those who claim that wearing the brace all day will help speed recovery and you can worry about strengthening the muscles once you feel better. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor. There may be circumstances specific to your condition that will determine which route is best for you.
Q: Can a back brace help with a herniated disc?
A: A back brace should provide much needed relief from the pain of a herniated disc (12). A herniated disc is one of the most painful chronic back problems a person can endure. In their quest to relieve the associated pain many seek help in medications. But this often does little but provide temporary relief and saddle the individual with the specter of drug dependence.
A back brace can be an invaluable tool in the struggle to relieve the pain associated with a herniated disc. Some claim they may even help prevent one from occurring. Although that type of claim is notoriously difficult to quantify. Still, if you are suffering from a herniated disc definitely ask your doctor about which back brace is right for you.
Q: Can a back brace help posture?
A: A back brace can definitely help correct your posture. Some braces are made specifically to address this issue. Even those braces intended mainly to provide lumbar support will, to some degree, encourage better posture.
Poor posture is one of the main contributing factors – along with obesity – to the epidemic of back problems (13). If you find you’ve begun to develop a bit of a slouch you should consider wearing a posture-assistive back brace. And that’s true even if you aren’t experiencing any particular back pain. It can help fend off serious back issues down the road.
Q: Can I wear a back brace while running?
A: Yes, you can wear a back brace while running. Although exactly which type you should wear will depend on the cause of your back pain. Runners experience back pain for a variety of reasons. It might be poor form, or it could be weak abs or even running on pavement. Or the source of the pain may be entirely unrelated to running. In any event you can wear a brace while running but you should discuss the matter with your doctor to determine exactly which type is right for your situation.
Q: Should I wear a back brace while sleeping?
A: In most cases you should not wear a back brace while sleeping. There may be isolated cases where it’s appropriate (some scoliosis braces are designed to be worn at night for instance) but in the vast majority of cases the back brace should be taken off before going to sleep. That’s true even in cases where the back brace is intended to aid in recovery from surgery. If, for some reason, your doctor does advise you to wear your back brace at night you should wear it over clothing. Otherwise, it might cause severe irritation to the skin. In addition, if you’re wearing the brace to alleviate severe pain you should probably sleep on your side while wearing it.
Q: Are there different types of back braces?
A: There are four major types of back braces. Each addresses a specific type of problem. Although most also provide benefits with regard to the overall health of your back.
Rigid braces are recommended for people with stability issues. People who have undergone back surgery will often wear one of these.
The corset brace helps with posture and relieves lower back pain. People who’ve had spinal fusion typically wear one of these for a while.
The occupational brace takes many forms but all are designed to help people engaged in heavy lifting prevent serious injury.
The sacroiliac brace typically envelopes the hips and pelvis. It’s not a very common brace but when it’s used its purpose is to stabilize the sacroiliac joint (14) in the pelvis.
Q: Should a pregnant woman wear a back brace?
A: Pregnant women often wear a back brace of some kind. The female body undergoes massive changes during pregnancy (15) some intended to adjust to the presence of the baby in the womb. Others intended to pave the way for delivery. But one thing most pregnant women have in common is back pain.
In fact, something like 70% of pregnant women report experiencing lower back pain significant enough to interfere with their daily routine. If you are suffering from pregnancy-related back pain it’s recommended you discuss the matter with your obstetrician to determine what type of back support device would be right for you.
Q: Should you wear a back brace in the shower?
A: Unless you are specifically directed to by your physician you should not wear a back brace in the shower. Doing so will cause them to become sopping wet. The wet material rubbing up against your skin for hours after you leave the shower could then produce sores. These sores can become infected and, well, you see where this is going. Nowhere good. If you must, via doctor’s orders, wear your brace while showering try covering it with a waterproof material. Or take it off immediately after showering, dry it with a hair dryer set to cool and then put it back on.
The modern back brace is a decidedly low-tech device, yet it can make the difference between living in pain and living relatively pain-free. It is also essential gear for those recovering from back surgery or serious back injury. And it can be a useful tool in the treatment of scoliosis.
Those suffering from arthritis also often find a back brace to be useful in helping to regain or maintain mobility. And those with poor posture can use a brace to help fend off the development of long-term back pain and other back issues.
When choosing a back brace keep in mind your specific reason for wanting one. Make sure you get one that is the right size for you and take as much time as needed to learn how to put it on in a way that provides optimal benefits.
All of the above listed back braces are prime examples of the current state of the art. Whichever one you choose is bound to provide the pain relief you need, or to help you prevent back injuries due to the lifting of heavy weights either on the job or in the gym.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended back brace, click here.