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One of the silver linings of 2020? Without a doubt, working from home. It rewarded many hardworking Americans with more flexibility, less stress, and more time with family.

But despite its many advantages, working in a home office setup — especially hunched over a laptop — also had its share of drawbacks. Cases of lower back and neck pain are on the rise according to a 2020 study.

The study, which examined work-related stress and musculoskeletal (MSK) issues among other things, found that 41.2 percent of study participants reported an increase in lower back pain in home office setups.

This, of course, has led to an uptick of interest in ergonomic desk furniture and orthopedic back braces, according to doctor of chiropractic, Dr. Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS.

“As more people started to work from home over the past few years, the need for over-the-counter braces has increased,” he says. “An orthopedic brace will help with stiffness and pain, and allow users to sit or stand with additional spinal support.

“As a result, these products help home workers be more productive and improve their posture,” he says.

Keep in mind

When it comes to back brace products in general, it is important to note that back braces are most effective when used at the recommendation of and under the supervision of a physician. Although the mechanics of back braces are effective at relieving pain, braces are a band aid solution that may not address underlying conditions that are the source of pain.

How we chose

While back braces are more available to consumers than ever before, not all products are created equal.

To help you find a product best suited for your needs, we examine who benefits most from a back brace, factors to consider when choosing one, and product recommendations from experts.

Because a home office setup can take a toll on our posture, back braces may seem like a viable solution to this problem. But as widely available as they may be, doctor of chiropractic, Jordan Duncan, DC, says back braces should really be reserved for specific situations.

“Those with true spinal instability, or those recovering from major trauma or surgery, will benefit most from lumbar spine back brace,” Duncan says. “In these circumstances, limiting overall trunk motion is indicated.”

A back brace that helps correct your posture on your upper back, likely from prolonged sitting, could be helpful for some people, he adds.

Movement is usually the best therapy for the vast majority of people, particularly uninhibited movement, according to Duncan.

“Therefore, unless you are post-operative, or have recently sustained a major injury, other forms of treatment should be employed prior to the use of a back brace,” he says.

Best back brace for lower back pain

Mueller Lumbar Support Back Brace

  • Price: $ – $$
  • Pros: If you’re looking for a back brace that’s firm and rigid, Duncan says this product is your best bet. “It comes with a removable pad that can be used to provide more cushion and support, and is made from breathable materials, making it comfortable to be worn for longer periods,” he says.
  • Cons: While this back brace is available in different sizes, be aware that it may not guarantee the perfect fit. Some individuals may find it too loose, or too tight, so you’ll want to measure your waist carefully before purchasing.

Best unisex back brace

BAXMAX Back Support

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Doctor of chiropractic Darren Bell, DC, says that this unisex back brace is lightweight, extremely durable, and doesn’t add bulk. “This is an all-purpose brace that would be best suited for a patient who lives an active lifestyle, but occasionally needs some additional spinal support,” he says.
  • Cons: Some people report that if you have wider hips it can cause pain.

Best back brace for lifting

Braceability Work Back Brace for Heavy Lifting

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Conrad says this brace is chiropractor recommended because of its reinforced lumbar support. “It provides additional stays among the back of the brace which help keep it from bunching up, and also has adjustable shoulder straps for additional support,” he says. “This type of lumbar back brace is helpful for those who work in construction or heavy lifting jobs, and its tapered sides make it easy to wear under clothing. It also has two reinforced side straps, which can adjust the strength of the support for whatever you need.”
  • Cons: Users note that if not the exact right size, the brace can slip over your mid-section.

Best back brace for pregnancy

SEROLA Sacroiliac Belt

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: “Sacroiliac belts are necessary for women during pregnancy — they are worn around the pelvis and improve stability of the sacroiliac joints,” Duncan explains. “My favorite sacroiliac belt comes from SEROLA. It comes with reinforcing Velcro straps, which makes for a secure fit around the pelvis.”
  • Cons: User reports that if tightened too much, can cause pain in the buttocks.

Best back brace for straightening and posture

Posture Medic

  • Price: $
  • Pros: This posture corrector is ideal for long hours spent hunched over your homework desk. Bell says, “it is easy to use, and can assist in correcting the postural aberrations that occur from prolonged computer use and other sedentary activities.”
  • Cons: Some users report that the product broke after a few uses.

Best medical-grade back brace

Aspen Evergreen 637 LSO Back Brace

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: Bell recommends this back brace if you need advanced orthopedic spinal support. “It can be customized to suit individual needs and body types, while offering advanced orthopedic spinal support,” he says. The compression can be tightened to focus support for specific areas of pain, he adds, and can also be useful following an accident or injury, or in cases of chronic pain.
  • Cons: This brace is very pricey.

The task of choosing a back brace may seem pretty straightforward, but Duncan says there are certain factors to be aware of before you shop.

First, he says you’ll want to find a product that limits the overall movement of the spine. “This way, it achieves the desired effect of taking the strain off of injured tissues, as well as improving spinal stability,” he explains.

Next, you’ll want to ensure that your brace fits securely between the top of the pelvis and the bottom of the ribcage.

But because a back brace wraps around the abdomen, Duncan says “they have the potential to increase intra-abdominal pressure. Because of this, individuals should be screened for cardiovascular risk factors by a medical professional before using a brace.”

While working from home has provided more family time and lower stress levels to many hard-working Americans, at-home office setups can spike musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the lower back area.

To correct this, back braces and posture correctors may be of interest — particularly ones that provide support and spinal stability. But experts note that back braces typically should be used in specific scenarios, such as recovering from intense surgery or trauma.

Nevertheless, back braces and posture braces are worth a try if you need the added support and cushioning.