Low Back Support: The Definitive Guide To Back Supports And Belts.

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Are you thinking of buying a back support or belt for your low back pain?

 

Have you wondered when you should wear your back support ?

 

If so keep reading, as I reveal what criteria to use when buying and wearing a lower back support.

 

Lower back supports are sometimes called back belts or lumbar supports. If you have a back injury or have a job where lifting is involved you might already be wearing a low back support.

 

Back supports provide pressure from the outside of your body to keep your body stable and your back safe. It’s doing the work of a back belt or support you already have!

 

Your Own Natural Back support: Your very own back support is made up of abdominal muscles, which attach to your lower back fascia, which in turn attach to your lower back muscles and together completely encircle your waist. I have described it like a corset to my patients, here at this downtown Toronto chiropractic clinic.

 

See Also: Best Treatments Help Your Lumbar Disc Herniation

 

For many of you there is no need to buy a back support or belt  when you can train your abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. Some of you on the other could use the help of a lower back support.

 

First, you need to know if you should wear a back support or not.  To do so you need to answer these two questions.

 

#1 Have you ever had a lower back injury or pain?

 

If the answer is no: then you shouldn’t be wearing a low back support / back belt. Studies have revealed that there is no benefit to wearing a low back support when you have never had back pain. Wearing a back support will weaken your muscles over time and make you dependent on them. The next time you go to lift something without your belt you have a good chance of getting injured.

 

See Also:  Why Is Disc Surgery Success Only 50%

 

You will need to keep wearing your back support until you have strengthened your core muscles including your low back and abdominal muscles. Then gradually stop wearing your low back support for short periods and increase the time until you are not wearing it at all.  This will take 2-3 months if you do the exercises everyday.

 

If the answer is yes: you have experienced lower back pain before then go to #2.

 

#2 Have you ever been injured while wearing a back support or back belt?

 

If your answer is no: then you need to strengthen your core using the exercises I have outlined below.

 

If your answer is yes: you need to keep wearing your back support while doing the four exercises shown below and wean yourself from your low back support.

Problems With Back Supports

  1. Back supports increase pressure inside your abdomen and increase blood pressure. For people that already have high blood pressure this is a problem as this can put them at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
  2. Varicose veins of the testicles and hemorrhoids have been reported for those wearing back supports in their work places. While studies have not proved this for me the varicose vein thing is definitely a deterrent.
  3. Research in 1994 and 2000 by the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)  showed that back supports and belts DID NOT reduce back pain incidences or back injury claims.
  4. Long-term use of a back support or belt showed that as soon as you stop using the belt on a regular basis the injures to the low back increases a lot. Reddel 1982
  5. Belts give you the perception that you can lift more. This is in fact true for most people. The problem is that you feel you are protected so you lift more and more often so you are exposing yourself to greater risk of injury.
  6. Claims that the increased abdominal pressure from the belt or support decreases pressure on the spine are not true.
  7. Yes back supports do increase abdominal pressure but they actually increase pressure on the lumbar spine. This is the opposite of what back belt manufacturers will have you believe.
  8. This does not mean back supports and belts are not helpful just that the claim of decreased pressure on the lower back is wrong.

 

Solution
#1 Lift Properly Using Proper Lifting Technique

 

Wearing a support belt will not prevent you from getting low back pain if you are lifting in the wrong way. Proper lifting technique is essential to preventing injury to your back. Otherwise you might end up coming to our downtown Toronto chiropractic clinic. Here’s how you prevent this.

 

Proper lifting with your butt called Butt Lifting is shown in the link just below.

 

See: Lifting Techniques: Weight Lifters vs Chiropractors’ Back Safety Lifting Technique

 

#2 Use Back Support And Belts Only For The Heavy Stuff.

 

Back Supports and belts should be used sparingly. Remember using a back support all the time weakens your lower back and abs making you vulnerable to big injuries once you stop using your back support.

 

Elliott Hulse uses his weight-belt for only the heavy stuff when he is giving it his all.  Weight lifting with a weight-belt is different from wearing a back support to prevent your lower back from hurting, but in this case Elliott Hulse’s principle is sound to use with your lower back support.

 

In other words use your back support when you have to lift beyond what you normally lift or when you have to lift repetitively.

 

Four Basic Exercises You Need When Weaning From A Back Support or Belt

#1 The Front Plank

How to Improve Posture-Front Plank: Toronto Chiropractic Clinic

  • To start keep your feet together and place your arms shoulder width apart.
  • Go up on your elbows with your head facing down to keep a straight line
  • Don’t let your butt go too high or low.  The picture above shows a straight line from his legs to his spine, which is the proper technique.
  • Hold for 3 sets of 10 seconds.  Work your way up to one minute. If you want to make it harder just raise one leg as high as it will go.

 

#2 The Supine Bridge

  • Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on the floor with your palms down
  • Look straight up, don’t look sideways like in the picture
  • Raise your buttock off the floor keeping your spine and legs in alignment. In this picture her buttocks have come down due to a weak core. Good form is important. Look in the mirror when doing the exercises.
  • Endurance is most important not strength. Lower your buttock until it touches the floor then go back up again.
  • 3 sets 10 times. Your butt should touch the floor each time.

 

#3 Lunges

  • The picture above shows an advanced lunge on a Bosu Ball.  The Bosu Ball can always be added later.
  • Take a big step forward with one foot and let the other knee almost touch the ground.
  • To make it easy at the beginning you can bring your knee down only half way.
  • Remember to keep the arch in your back called a lordosis.
  • 3 sets of 10 for each leg.

 

#4 Bird Dog

Low back Support Back belt -post back belt exercises

  • Get into a push-up position with your hands and feet shoulder width apart.
  • Harden your core by contracting your abs and lower back. This is called bracing.
  • Lift up your arm first. If this is easy lift your leg only. If that is easy lift opposite legs and arms e.g. left leg , right arm
  • Want to make it tougher. Try lifting an arm and leg on the same side.
  • 3 sets of 10. If you are shaking a little or cannot balance quite right you’re doing the right exercise for you i.e. lifting just the leg or arm might be easy but lifting opposite arms and legs might put you off balance a bit.  Make sure you are stable before going to the advanced bird dog.

 

Will you be wearing a lower back support or belt?

Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.


Author

Dr Ken Nakamura

Who is Dr. Ken? I’m a father, spouse, chiropractor, and I love what I do! I created Bodi Empowerment to bring you and everyone-else safe and effective methods for self-treatment by basing my articles on research to everything I can. Still many parts will be based on 18 years of experience, seminars, and collaboration with other health experts; which means you will get opinions as well. Sometimes my articles won’t agree with what is currently accepted, but I am not here to please everyone. I’m here to empower you through the knowledge that I give you. Dr. Ken works at Rebalance Sports Medicine in downtown, Toronto.

8 Responses to Low Back Support: The Definitive Guide To Back Supports And Belts.
  • Emma Cronin says:
    March 12, 2017 at 3:30 am

    Hello,
    My mother is 88 y.o.and she is suffering from a pain in her thigh. After numerous consultations and taking MRI scans, it was confirmed that the pain to her thigh is coming from her lower back and she has an osteoporosis. Can she wear back support belt just for a comfort and if yes which one.
    Many thanks Emma

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      March 13, 2017 at 6:49 am

      Thanks for your question Emma. If you get your mother to wear a low back support her muscles will weaken further contributing to further osteoporosis and likely a fracture in her mid back. Getting her do the right exercises will likely help her more. You just have to find the right health practitioner to help her. I cannot tell you which exercises as I don’t know her symptoms, other than the fact that she has thigh pain.

      Why don’t you find the best chiropractor or best physiotherapist in your neighbourhood? If you have any more question for this downtown Toronto chiropractor I will do my best to give you a helpful answer.

  • Terry Kimball says:
    August 5, 2016 at 6:32 am

    I keep reading that “everyone knows” that wearing a back brace will weaken your muscles. You say something similar in #2 above. But I can’t find any research to “back” this claim. Can you give me some references or research studies? I’d appreciate it!

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      August 8, 2016 at 2:20 am

      Thanks for your question Terry. Why don’t you read Dr. Stuart McGill’s book, a professor at McGill University called Low back Disorders. There is a whole chapter and references on it. He is an expert on lower back pain and is respected and his research is recognized around the world.

      Are you researching or a student or do you work for a back brace company?

      Problems With Back Supports

      1. Back supports increase pressure inside your abdomen and increase blood pressure. For people that already have high blood pressure this is a problem as this can put them at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
      2. Varicose veins of the testicles and hemorrhoids have been reported for those wearing back supports in their work places. While studies have not proved this for me the varicose vein thing is definitely a deterrent.
      3.Research in 1994 and 2000 by the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) showed that back supports and belts DID NOT reduce back pain incidences or back injury claims.
      Long-term use of a back support or belt showed that as soon as you stop using the belt on a regular basis the injures to the low back increases a lot. Reddel 1982
      4. Belts give you the perception that you can lift more. This is in fact true for most people. The problem is that you feel you are protected so you lift more and more often so you are exposing yourself to greater risk of injury.
      5. Claims that the increased abdominal pressure from the belt or support decreases pressure on the spine are not true.
      Yes back supports do increase abdominal pressure but they actually increase pressure on the lumbar spine. This is the opposite of what back belt manufacturers will have you believe.
      This does not mean back supports and belts are not helpful just that the claim of decreased pressure on the lower back is wrong.

  • Maureen says:
    December 15, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    My father is 82 years of age and like many elderly men worked hard his whole life and is now spending his retirement years in agony. His back no longer has the “cushions” between the vertebra in his lower back. There isn’t a chiroprator or physio therapist within 100 km that has been able to help other than recommend surgery. I am unable to find much information online that could help. Is there any one interested in helping our seniors live comfortably helping to relieve their pain, because if there is I can’t find it.
    If you can recommend someone or something we live in BC.

  • Mireille says:
    March 6, 2014 at 4:04 am

    I have a back pain what i can do

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