Back Support Belt for Safety and Stability: A Comprehensive Guide

Lumbar Support Belt: Back Support for Safety and Stability: A Comprehensive Guide. Dr Ken Nakamura Toronto Chiropractor

Thinking about purchasing a back support belt to alleviate your lower back pain? Curious about the best times to wear such a support? This guide is crafted to enlighten you on the essential criteria for selecting and utilizing a back support belt effectively.

Back Support Belts Provide Stability and Bracing

Back support belts, often referred to as back belts or lumbar supports, are essential for some and detrimental for other individuals with back injuries or jobs that involve heavy lifting. These supports act like an external brace, providing stability and safety to your back by mimicking the support system your body naturally has.

See Also: Best Treatments Help Your Lumbar Disc Herniation

Your Body’s Natural Back Support:

Imagine your body’s natural back support as an inbuilt corset. This “corset” is composed of your abdominal muscles, which connect to your lower back fascia and muscles, encircling your waist entirely. This natural mechanism is your first line of defence against back injuries, and understanding its role is crucial before considering additional support.

Should You Wear a Back Support Belt?

Before diving into the world of back support belts, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you ever experienced lower back injury or pain?
    • No: If you’ve never suffered from back pain, wearing a back support might not be for you. Research indicates that for individuals without prior back pain, back supports offer no benefits and could potentially weaken your muscles over time, increasing dependency on the belt and risk of injury when not worn.
    • Yes: If you’ve had back pain, proceed to the next question.
  2. Have you been injured while wearing a back support?
    • No: It’s time to focus on strengthening your core. A robust core is essential for back health and can often eliminate the need for lower back support.
    • Yes: Continue wearing your back support but also commit to specific exercises designed to build your core strength and gradually reduce reliance on the belt.

See Also:  Why Is Disc Surgery Success Only 50%

Strengthening Your Core: The Alternative to Back Support Belts

Instead of immediately opting for a lumbar back support belt, consider strengthening your core muscles. A strong core supports your lower back naturally, reducing or eliminating the need for artificial supports. Engaging in targeted exercises can fortify your abdominal and back muscles, providing a natural “corset” that offers protection and stability.

For those who have already experienced back pain or injury, wearing a back support can be a temporary measure while you work on building your core strength. Transitioning away from the support should be a gradual process, aiming for 2-3 months with consistent exercise.

Remember, back supports are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Their effectiveness and necessity vary from person to person, depending on individual health history and lifestyle. Before making a decision, consider your own needs, consult healthcare professionals, and weigh the benefits of natural strength versus external support.

Problems With Back Support Belts

The use of back supports and belts is a common practice among individuals seeking relief from back pain or looking to prevent back injuries, especially in occupations that require heavy lifting. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential drawbacks and problems associated with their long-term use. Here’s a closer look at some concerns surrounding back supports:

1. Increased Abdominal and Blood Pressure

Back supports can elevate abdominal pressure, which in turn may raise blood pressure. This poses a significant concern for individuals with high blood pressure, as the increased pressure could heighten the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes.

2. Risk of Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids

There have been reports linking the use of back supports in the workplace to the development of varicose veins, specifically in the testicles, and haemorrhoids. Though not conclusively proven, the association between prolonged use of back supports and these conditions cannot be entirely dismissed and warrants caution.

3. Questionable Efficacy in Preventing Back Injuries

Research conducted by the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1994 and 2000 found that back supports did not significantly reduce the incidence of back pain or back injury claims. This challenges the effectiveness of back supports in preventing back injuries, a primary reason many individuals and employers invest in them.

4. Potential for Increased Injury Risk Upon Discontinuation

Studies, including one by Reddel in 1982, indicate that discontinuing the use of back supports after prolonged use could lead to an increased risk of lower back injuries. This suggests that reliance on back supports might weaken the natural support system of the back muscles over time, making them more susceptible to injuries.

5. False Sense of Security

Back supports may give users the impression that they can lift more weight than they safely should. This false sense of security can lead to overexertion and a higher risk of injury, as individuals may lift heavier loads or do so more frequently than advisable.

6. Misconceptions About Spinal Pressure

Contrary to some claims, increased abdominal pressure from wearing back supports does not decrease pressure on the spine. It can increase pressure on the lumbar spine, contradicting the claims made by some manufacturers that back support belts lessen spinal load.

In light of these concerns, it’s important to approach the use of back support belts with caution. While they can offer benefits in specific situations, relying solely on back support belts for back health is not advisable. Integrating core strengthening exercises, practising proper lifting techniques, and considering ergonomic solutions are critical steps for maintaining back health and preventing injuries without becoming dependent on external supports.

Solution: Back Support Belt

#1 Lift Properly Using Proper Lifting Technique

Wearing a support belt will not prevent you from getting lower 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 Belts Only For The Heavy Stuff.

Back Supports and belts should be used sparingly. Remember using 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

Back Support: Back Belt-Post support exercise
  • 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

Back Support: post back support exercise
  • 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

  • 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?

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  • This post is very helpful to learn about who should wear the back support belts and who should not. Many people with misunderstanding that they can avoid back pain by using belts. Thank you for sharing this helpful post.

  • I am a 68 year old male. I have 6 vertebral compression fractures (T12 and L1 – L5) due to osteoporosis. There is severe kyphosis. Ten minutes after standing and/or walking severe pain begins on the left and right sides below the kidney areas. (It feels like muscular pain, but that’s a guess.) I have tried just about every pain medication, but nothing works. I have had laser treatments, done exercises, minimized activities, without any success…..I have seen a sophisticated back brace marketed towards those with kyphosis. Are you aware of it? Do you have an opinion as to whether a brace could be beneficial for pain management in circumstances like mine? I would appreciate any input you might have.

    • Post

      Thanks for your question Marc. I would be against a brace as I don’t think they will help. I think minor extensions while sitting may be helpful. However, in your case, I would only do this with the help of a health professional.

      Hope that helps your pain.

  • 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

    • Post

      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.

  • 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!

    • Post

      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.

  • 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.

Dr Ken Nakamura downtown Toronto Chiropractor
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Dr. Ken, has been recognized as the Best Toronto Chiropractor in 2024, 2023, and 2018, here in downtown Toronto. As a sports chiropractor, he excels in treating a wide range of conditions including concussions, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), sports-related injuries, and spinal issues. Beyond his clinical skills, Dr. Ken is an accomplished athlete, having represented Ontario in the Canadian Judo Championships and completed the Toronto Marathon on two occasions. He employs the innovative C3 Program to provide targeted and effective care to his patients, ensuring a holistic approach to their well-being and athletic performance.