PainSci summary of Rohlmann 1999?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
To determine how much a back brace really braces, German researchers used “telemeterized” implants — steel fixation rods with meters on them! so cyborgy! — to measure the effect of common braces on spinal forces. This is a good experiment. If you have implants stabilizing your spine internally, measuring the stresses on them directly is a pretty clever way of checking to see if an external brace is doing anything.
Three types of braces were examined: Boston overlap brace, reclination brace, and a lumbotrain harness. Unsurprisingly, they found that “none of the braces studied were able to markedly reduce the loads” on the implants. There was some reduction — just not “marked,” nothing to write home about.
More surprisingly, some of their measurements showed that bracing increased loading on the implants! That does seem possible. The spine is an extraordinarily dynamic structure. Somewhat like slouching into a comfortable chair, a brace may actually cause some sloppiness of spinal function, resulting in “resting” on the fixations, rather than using muscle to support and control the spine. That’s just a guess, but it seems like a reasonable one to me.
original abstract†Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of a brace or harness on loads on internal spinal fixation devices.
DESIGN: The implant loads were measured in vivo using telemeterized internal spinal fixators.
BACKGROUND: Only limited information exists regarding the load reduction due to a brace or harness.
METHODS: A Boston overlap brace, a reclination brace, and a lumbotrain harness were examined to determine how they affect the loads on internal spinal fixation devices. The implant loads were measured using telemeterized fixators in six patients for several positions and activities, including sitting, standing, walking, bending forward, and lifting an extended leg in a supine position.
RESULTS: None of the braces studied were able to markedly reduce the loads on the fixators. Frequently even higher fixator loads were measured when wearing a brace or harness.
CONCLUSIONS: It does not seem helpful to brace patients after mono- or bisegmental stabilization of the lumbar spine.
These three articles on PainScience.com cite Rohlmann 1999 as a source:
- PS Save Yourself from Low Back Pain! — Low back pain myths debunked and all your treatment options reviewed
- PS Don’t Worry About Lifting Technique — The importance of “lift with your legs, not your back” to prevent back pain has been exaggerated
- PS Spinal Fracture Bracing — My wife’s terrible accident, and a whirlwind tour of the science and biomechanics of her spine brace
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- A Bayesian model-averaged meta-analysis of the power pose effect with informed and default priors: the case of felt power. Gronau 2017 Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology.
- The neck and headaches. Bogduk 2014 Neurol Clin.
- Agreement of self-reported items and clinically assessed nerve root involvement (or sciatica) in a primary care setting. Konstantinou 2012 Eur Spine J.
- Effect of NSAIDs on Recovery From Acute Skeletal Muscle Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Morelli 2017 Am J Sports Med.
- Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Paige 2017 JAMA.