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A Jewett brace is a type of back brace designed to be worn after back surgery or a back injury, though these braces are sometimes used for other spinal conditions as well. The purpose of the brace is to prevent movement that could potentially re-injure a patient's back. Wearing a Jewett brace will restrict a patient's movement and activities to a certain degree, though they do allow patients to be mobile.
There are many different types of braces available for various back problems or injuries. These range from full jacket braces, which cover the entire torso and completely immobilize the back, to flexible elastic braces that only provide some support and remind the wearer not to perform certain movements. Jewett braces hold the back in an upright, extended position — as opposed to a rounded, bent, flexed position — using three pads: one on the chest, one on the lower abdomen, and one on the back. The pads are held on a metal and plastic frame that goes around the body and stabilizes the torso.
While wearing a Jewett brace, patients will be unable to perform certain activities, so they will need to plan ahead to have some assistance from another person. Most types of bending and twisting will not be possible, and patients will not be able to sit in some types of chairs. Some types of reaching and other movements will also be impossible, so patients will need to make sure that everything they might need is easily accessible. A helper will be needed each time the brace is removed and put on to make sure it is properly positioned and adjusted.
For nearly all conditions requiring a Jewett brace, it is important for patients to keep the back straight at all times. For example, when getting out of bed, patients will need to roll like a log to turn onto their sides as opposed to twisting the spine. The brace should prevent movement that would cause pain and potential injury, but patients will need to be careful when the brace is not being worn and when it is being removed or adjusted.
Wearing a Jewett brace can cause some physical discomfort and frustration due to limited movement. It is important to wear a cotton shirt underneath the brace to minimize skin irritation and to prevent sweat buildup underneath the pads. Patients who are experiencing irritation, redness, or any other difficulty with the brace should contact the person who fitted the brace, as it may need to be readjusted. Some patients, such as those with existing spinal curvature, may not be able to wear a Jewett brace and will need a different brace.