Lumbar Support Belts

Q: I drive, load and unload a delivery truck. Since my job requires lifting, should I wear a back support belt?

A: According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the use of back support belts have not been proven effective in lowering the risk of back injury among previously uninjured workers. NIOSH has emphasized that back belts do not lessen the hazards created by repeated lifting, pushing, pulling, twisting or bending.

A far more effective means of decreasing the likelihood of back injury is to practice proper lifting mechanics. This also includes the avoidance of lifting loads that are too heavy. Other critical measures to avoid back injuries while lifting include maintaining proper spinal alignment with regular chiropractic care and exercise. It is especially important to strengthen abdominal and spinal muscles. Overweight people or people under emotional stress are more prone to back injury.

People who have injured their low back and have been instructed to wear a lumbar support/back belt should remember the following tips:

1. How to wear it: The belt should be worn to cover the area around and below the waist, covering the upper buttocks. When seated, the elastic should touch the chair bottom.

2. Fitting the belt: The belt should fit snugly but not so tight that breathing deeply is difficult or uncomfortable. To ensure proper belt size, measurements should be taken around the circumference of the waist and the widest portion of the hips. It is also necessary to measure for proper height of the belt.

3. When to wear it: Only wear the belt when lifting heavy or awkward loads. If the belt is worn continuously (i.e. even while at rest) the lower back muscles are likely to weaken and atrophy. Weak back muscles fail to support the spine properly, increasing the chances of back injury.

4. Back belt maintenance: Just like a pair of jeans, the belt becomes loose fitting after wearing it a while. Washing it periodically tightens the elastic and helps it to last longer. Do not put the belt in the dryer.