Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine
Are lumbar belts good for the back? This is a question I get regularly from my back pain patients. You probably have to ask yourself the same question.
My answer: It depends! Instead of giving an expeditious (and subjective!) answer, I prefer to educate my patients on lumbar belts in general. I would like to do the same with you.
What is the precise role of a lumbar belt, above all? What are the positives and negatives. Are there alternatives? In what situations should they be preferred? How to use them on a daily basis?
In the following article you will have all the answers to your questions about lumbar belts. This will allow you to make an informed decision if you ever consider purchasing one of these products. As a bonus, I make a recommendation at the end of the article that will perfectly meet your needs.
Lumbar belt, what is it exactly?
Used to relieve back pain, the lumbar belt is a device that is placed around the waist to provide support to the lumbar region.
Its use is based on several assumptions:
- It would increase the intra-abdominal pressure in the abdominal cavity. This pressure would be distributed at the level of the trunk, and not only at the level of the spine. In addition, it would support the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm.
- It would limit the movements of the trunk and reduce the lumbar flexion while lifting loads. This would have the effect of reducing the compressive forces on the column.
- It would serve as a reminder when lifting heavy weights. More specifically, it would allow you to focus on proper technique, as well as remember to respect your own limits.
Opinions are divided on their usefulness, both among users and among health professionals. In the following sections, we will discuss the positives and negatives of kidney belts.
On the one hand, there are the fans of lumbar belts. If we believe the opinion shared on the net, many people have seen an improvement in their symptoms and an improvement in their condition after obtaining one of these products.
Here is an example of a testimonial supporting their use:
“With my back pain, I can't stand for more than 30 minutes. Luckily, my hip belt allows me to cook for long periods of time without pain. »
Indeed, the properties of lumbar belts make it possible to improve the daily lives of many people. On the one hand, the support offered reduces compressive forces on vertebrae lower back, which helps relieve back pain.
Next, the psychological support provided by lumbar belts should not be underestimated. By having discreet external support, we have more confidence in our abilities, which allows us to do activities that we would normally avoid.
Finally, by reducing the movements via the lumbar belt, we also reduce the torsion forces, and therefore the probability of hurting yourself by making a wrong movement. This is particularly useful if you are experiencing an acute crisis of low back pain, lumbago, herniated disc ou sciatica symptomatic, etc.
Summary of the positive points of the lumbar belts:
- Discreet (worn under a t-shirt or sweater)
- Reminder to lift loads properly (proprioceptive reminder)
- Psychological support that increases confidence in one's abilities
- Stabilizes the vertebrae
- Reduces twisting forces
- Decreases the compressive force on the lumbar vertebrae
- Relieves pain
- Allows a prompt return to work (in case of physical work)
- Increases walking/standing tolerance
Lumbar belts are not unanimous, far from it.
On a physical level, lumbar belts can be uncomfortable (especially at first), and even more so if a low quality belt is used. One can even observe irritation and itching in certain rare cases.
We mentioned earlier that they limit ranges of motion. Although this can be useful in an acute crisis, it must be remembered that the back needs to be mobilized in all amplitudes in order not to become stiff, and to remain healthy.
Then, the fact of being constantly supported can in the long run favor a reduction in the activity of the muscles of the trunk. This is particularly true if you combine the wearing of a lumbar belt with a complete rest in bed. With people like elderly, this lack of activity can be particularly harmful!
Moreover, the psychological support provided by the lumbar belt can sometimes turn into overzealousness. This false sense of security unfortunately pushes some people to do too much, or even lift heavier than recommended.
Finally, the compression of the stomach due to wearing the belt can affect breathing and digestion. For those who suffer from high blood pressure, you should check with your doctor if the belt would not be harmful.
Summary of the negative points of lumbar belts:
- Promotes stiffness via limited range of motion
- False sense of security leading to heavier lifting or overdoing it
- Promotes muscle inactivity (especially if combined with bed rest, or in the elderly)
- Creates a sense of dependency
- Affects diaphragmatic breathing
- Affects digestion (via stomach compression)
- Affects blood pressure (due to compression)
- Can be uncomfortable at first
- Does not correct the source of back pain
- Can irritate the skin (especially if the size is wrong)
Lumbar belts perform several roles. Let's see together some alternatives that can be used to achieve the same beneficial effects on the back:
Strengthening the transverse abdominal muscle
What if I told you that there was a muscle that started from the lumbar vertebrae and came to fit on the pubis in front, a bit like a natural belt? What if I told you that its role was precisely to stabilize the lumbar vertebrae and protect the back?
This muscle does exist, and it's called the “Transverse Abdominal Muscle”. Ironically, several studies have shown that this muscle does not perform its function optimally in individuals with lower back pain. REF
Fortunately, it is possible to work this muscle through specific exercises to improve the quality of its contraction, as well as to optimize its protective effect on the back.
Here is an exercise to practice in the comfort of your own home:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Tuck your stomach in very slightly so that your navel is pointing towards the floor.
- To optimize the contraction of your deep muscles, you can also imagine that you stop urinating mid-stream. (This engages the pelvic floor muscles which work synergistically with the transverse muscle to stabilize the trunk.).
- Maintain normal breathing while doing the movement
- Hold the contraction statically for 10 seconds, then repeat ten times.
By practicing this exercise regularly, you will benefit from a natural and anatomical support to protect you from back pain in the long term.
If your intention in getting a lumbar belt is to correct your posture, it is better to opt for a posture corrector.
These harness-like devices can also be put under our clothes, and contain elastic reminders to avoid slouching by adopting a more rectilinear position.
Rigid brace/ corset
Lumbar belts are most often made of breathable and elastic materials. These characteristics are adequate for the majority of people wishing to benefit from lumbar support.
On the other hand, some conditions require much stricter support. If you suffer from Scoliosis severe, of spondylolisthesis grade 3-4,lumbar instability, your doctor may prescribe a rigid brace or corset.
Also, it is common to benefit from a rigid support after an operation for the back, the time of rehabilitation.
Slimming products and accessories
Among women in particular, there are many slimming products aimed at sculpting their silhouette and concealing their curves. Leggings, panties, girdles, tank tops, most are worn around the hips and waist to benefit from their compressive effect.
Although they do not support the back region as well as a lumbar belt, these products exercise a slight compression at the level of the belly. Indirectly, this can provide significant psychological support.
To know everything about losing weight when you suffer from back pain: Click here
Work routine (physical)
This alternative is intended for workers with a job of a physical nature (nursing assistants, cleaning lady, construction, etc.). Instead of resolving to use a lumbar belt to practice his profession, he should rather reconsider the way of practicing his day-to-day work.
Thus, it would be better to start your day with dynamic stretching and a warm-up adapted to your tasks. This will have the effect of preparing the body for the effort, and avoid the risk of injury.
Also, it is relevant to take breaks at appropriate times to avoid the accumulation of fatigue and prevent low back pain. Discuss with your manager or doctor about incorporating micro-breaks throughout the day.
Finally, nothing can help if you overload your body – not even the best lumbar belt on the market! Make sure you don't overwork your body. Always respect the concept of progressive overload when performing physical activities.
My opinion of health professionals (physiotherapist)
As a health professional, the first instinct would be to follow the recommendations provided by scientific research. What do the scientific studies say about back belts?
Unfortunately, there is insufficient scientific evidence to conclude that wearing lumbar belts reduces the risk of back injuries. This means that in terms of prevention, it is difficult to say that these belts will help correct your back pain in the long term.
However, the lack of evidence does not make it an outdated and useless tool. Some of my patients swear by their back braces for pain relief. It is the same with several Internet users who have seen an improvement in their condition after obtaining a belt.
My biggest problem with lumbar belts is that they correct the consequences – not the cause – of back pain. Thus, we should not consider these belts as THE solution in themselves, but rather as a tool that can help us overcome periods of more severe pain.
It would therefore ideally be necessary to change one's mentality in connection with these products. Personally, I recommend my patients to use them after an acute injury, or if the back hurts more than usual. The ideal would be to stop using it over time, when your muscles are strong enough to support your back naturally.
Never forget that your back is strong, and has extraordinary healing abilities. The lumbar belt can provide extra support, provide significant relief and increase self-confidence. But no tool is essential when it comes to curing back pain.
OK. You have decided to get yourself a lumbar belt. I hope at least that you will use it intelligently, and in an optimal way. This is what we will discuss in the next section.
When should you wear your lumbar belt?
As mentioned previously, you should avoid wearing your lumbar belt at all times so as not to become dependent on it (physically and especially mentally).
Here are situations where wearing a lumbar belt is relevant (keep in mind that the ideal would be to use the belt temporarily):
- Following an acute attack of pain (lumbago, sciatica, herniated disc symptomatic)
- To try a new exercise, or to lift heavier loads than usual (bodybuilding, household chores, etc.)
- To increase tolerance in standing and walking (cooking, walks, etc.)
- To facilitate a return to work following a back injury
- If you suffer from a condition affecting posture and/or lumbar stability (follow medical recommendations)
How to choose your lumbar belt?
It is essential to choose a good lumbar belt to maximize their effect of comfort and support.
Each belt comes with its size system, and depends mainly on your waistline. Most belts have fixed lengths and widths, but some are tailored to your height.
Here is an example of belt size based on waist circumference:
If your pain is lower back (L5-S1), I recommend measuring your waist at the hips and not at the navel. Since the belt will tend to be worn very low, you may need to size up.
How do I wash these devices?
All lumbar belts come with instructions that should be followed for optimal use.
In many cases, washing at low temperature (30 degrees) is sufficient. Obviously, hand washing is the best way to maintain the elastic capabilities of the kidney belts.
Can you sleep with a lumbar belt?
It is possible to use the lumbar belt during sleep if this is disturbed due to back pain. For example, the movement restriction induced by the belt can be interesting if twisting movements are painful.
On the other hand, it is preferable to abandon the belt during sleep as soon as possible, and not to make it a (bad) habit. Even at night, muscles need to work, and lack of movement can make morning stiffness worse.
Heated lumbar belt
As physiotherapist, people often ask my opinion on the best kidney belt to use. Although this answer is subjective, I would like to share a product that may be of interest to you.
This is the heated lumbar belt. The concept is simple: It is a lumbar belt comprising a heating pillow removable. Basically, it's the perfect combination for those who want to provide lumbar support while enjoying muscle relaxation.
On the one hand, the adjustable tension thanks to an elastic band and a Velcro allows a personalized and comfortable support. The breathable materials are also suitable for everyday activities and sports.
On the other hand, the integrated (and removable) heating pad uses tourmaline and magnets to provide a heating effect. This heat provided will help relax tense muscles, and thus relieve pain. In addition, the belt can be turned over so that the heat spreads to the level of the belly, which is ideal for calming stomach aches and other gastric problems.
Personally, I think that a heated lumbar belt represents an excellent compromise, and the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. For example, the belt can be worn on the short term and for painful periods, and replace a heat bag or hot water bottle for its muscle relaxation effect.e.
If you're interested in getting a back brace, I hope I've helped you make a more informed decision.
Specifically, I hope you have understood that it is a tool to help you relieve your pain and increase your activity level. This external support will not correct the source of your back pain.
Thus, lumbar belts must absolutely be integrated within a global approach taking into consideration physical and other aspects (psychological, social, etc.).
Keep in mind that their use should be temporary, and that the duration should be reduced gradually to focus on what really matters (physical activity, stress management, quality of sleep, etc.).
If you want to know the opinion of health professionals on other products focused on back pain:
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