Abdominal supports are garments that support the stomach muscles. Usually designed as a wrap-around belt or brace worn under a person’s clothing, abdominal supports protect weak or injured muscles from further strain, while providing relief from the back pain that so often accompanies limited abdominal strength. By stabilizing the midsection, abdominal supports prevent other muscles from over-compensating for their weaker counterparts, and restore the body’s natural center of balance.
Abdominal supports are sometimes used for aesthetic purposes as well, slimming and smoothing the appearance of the belly and waist. They are a high-tech descendant of old-fashioned corsets, relying on woven elastic and moldable inserts to support the midsection and encourage proper posture, instead of whalebone and cotton.
There are many different types of abdominal supports designed to provide different levels of compression and support. Medical-grade abdominal supports are often worn by people recovering from surgery or suffering from a hernia, protecting damaged muscles from further trauma by keeping them still. Pre-natal abdominal supports are popular among pregnant women, relieving pressure on the belly, legs, and sciatic nerve, and restoring a more comfortable center of balance. Mothers who recently gave birth often wear abdominal supports to relieve backaches caused by over-extended stomach muscles, and weight-lifters sometimes wear abdominal braces as a precaution against over-exerting and rupturing their abdominal muscles. Some people just wear them to support their midsection through long, labor-intensive days.
Abdominal supports are generally made out of some form of elastic, although the actual composition varies. People with latex-sensitivities should be especially careful when shopping for abdominal supports, checking the label to make certain that their garment of choice is latex-free. Many abdominal supports are made out of materials people with sensitive skin find irritating, so care should be taken to choose a comfortable brace with a soft, smooth inner lining.
Many abdominal supports are divided into different panels, or sections, offering different levels of support to the abdomen, ribcage, and lower back, but others offer the same level of compression all the way around. The supports are usually wrapped around a person’s mid-section and secured with hook and pile closures, or Velcro. One-piece pull-on supports are available for light compression, and some abdominal supports have a zippered closure, although those are less common. Many braces provide pockets for heated inserts that soothe and relax sore muscles, maximizing the natural, effective pain relief offered by good abdominal supports.