Whether it's moving day and you're struggling to lift a couch up a flight of stairs, or you're in the gym getting ready to lift some heavy weights, the strength of your spine is worrisome. There is nothing fun or enjoyable about a lower back injury, and you'd certainly rather be safe than sorry. The next time you have to lift something heavy, you might want to consider using a weightlifting-style belt to support your lower back.
When you pick something up off of the ground, your lower back is under a lot of stress because it is being pulled forward while the muscles of your lower back pull backward. This creates tension in your lower back that can cause injuries, such as a disc herniation or fractured vertebrae.
Your lower back has to absorb a lot of force when you lift an object, which is why lower back injuries are so common. Around 80 percent of people will experience low back pain in their lives, according to Professor Alan Hedge of Cornell University. You'll want to use every tool at your disposal to avoid a lower back injury.
Occupational Lifting Belts
Lower back support belts are the most common form of supportive device that you can buy for your lower back. They come in different shapes and sizes and are used for different purposes. Support belts for lifting furniture typically have straps that go around your shoulders, like suspenders, and attach to a belt that wraps around your waist. This type of belt is typically used in occupational settings throughout the work day.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA for short, is responsible for making sure that laborers are safe in their work environment. They have extensive guidelines on lower back safety, including guidelines on how much a person should be lifting relative to their bodyweight and how many times they should be performing lifts during a work day.
As part of their guidelines, they took a position on using lower back support belts in the workplace. After reviewing various studies on using belts in the workplace they came to the conclusion that they don't help prevent lower back injuries. While the belts that laborers use don't seem to work very well, there is another type of lower back support belt that shows more promise.
Weightlifting belts are different from what you might see in a work environment. Designed to be used for short periods of time, these belts are much stiffer and don't have any shoulder straps. During exercises such as squats and deadlifts, these belts have been shown to increase the amount of muscle activity in your lower back when lifting weights, which is the muscle group that protects your lower back while lifting.
Wearing a weightlifting belt also increases the pressure in your abdomen while you lift. When the pressure in your abdomen increases while lifting weights it makes your spine less likely to bend, according to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Biomechanics. The belts increase the pressure in your abdomen because they are so stiff and they prevent your waist from expanding as you lift, which is why it's important to use a stiff weightlifting belt instead of a softer occupational back support belt.