Back and waist support belts are used now by a wide segment of the public, whether for extra support while exercising and lifting weights, to help protect them from injury while working, or as part of physical therapy, allowing the back to rest while recuperation from an injury is underway.
There is a wide range of conditions that call for the use of such belts -- including spinal stenosis, in which the nerve opening inside the vertebrae is too small, pinching the nerves; slipped discs, which occur when the gel-like disc between two vertebrae ruptures; and sciatica, in which a herniated disk or even a bone spur puts pressure on the nerve that runs down the legs, sometimes causing debilitating pain, along with numbness and tingling.
Modern Back and Waist Support Belt Offers Superior Comfort
Now constructed of comfortable, breathable fabrics, back support belts on the market today are easy to wear -- and back pain can be so life-altering that many sufferers may be tempted to wear them all day long, and even at night, to provide extra support while laying down.
However, medical professionals across the board caution that this is a dangerous practice that could even result in a weakening and atrophy of the very muscles, ligaments, and other structures within the core of the body that needs to be strengthened in order to avoid pain and further injury. Normally, physicians recommend wearing a back brace or back and waist support belt for a short duration only, just to allow the body to heal itself, cautioning patients to discontinue use after the situation has resolved.
Christopher Cousins, a Washington, D.C. - based physical therapist, tells U.S. News and World Report that "Lumbar support devices provide enough compression and support for the lower back to allow healing to occur. The compression on your abdomen means there's less pressure on your lower back discs, ligaments, muscles, and spine."
Wear a Back Support Belt for Back Pain for Two to Four Days Maximum
Indeed, experts say, a back and waist support belt should be used as soon as possible after pain sets in, to protect the area from further injury. Chiropractor Scott Bauch explains to U.S. News that "You want to give yourself bracing so you can move. Inactivity or immobilization is the worst thing for a back. You want to remain active, and a brace can help you do that."
When worn for muscle strain, a common condition for which support belts are recommended, physicians say that the belts should be worn for a maximum of two to four days only, in order to avoid a dangerous weakening of the core muscles -- which could not only exacerbate the original injury but also lead to chronic pain and other conditions.
Those who go against medical advice and wear the belts for longer than recommended -- for example more than two weeks -- can even develop gastrointestinal disorders, increased blood pressure, skin lesions from the friction of the belts, and core muscle weakening. Experts note that those who wear such belts over a prolonged period not only run the risk of developing these conditions but also may avoid investigating the condition that caused the problems in the first place, including kidney stones, which sometimes present as back pain.
Rather than living for an extended period in a comfortable back brace which may indeed feel like the ultimate solution, physicians often recommend a course of physical therapy to patients in order to strengthen the very core muscles that are being supported by a back and waist belt. Even Pilates, stretching, and yoga may be part of the treatment for the various back maladies that may have caused the patient to resort to a back brace or belt.
Muscles Lose Strength After Prolonged Back and Waist Belt Wear
The kind of lumbar support offered by these devices can be just what the doctor ordered, Bauch says -- for the short term. He notes "Your muscles start to adapt and get accustomed to the brace, which means they can lose strength, which can lead to more injuries. If you use the back brace for more than two weeks, you can become brace-dependent."
As more and more people work while sitting in front of computers -- not counting the screen time that they indulge in after hours -- the bad posture they often have while sitting has led to many of the back injuries that occur today. Wearing a back and waist support belt may indeed help with this chronic condition as well -- again, as long as you don't go overboard and wear the device continually.
The slouching posture that many of us find ourselves in as we squint at screens during the course of our days is the culprit in many maladies, leading to a weakening of the spine and an increased susceptibility to injury. A good-quality, well-fitting back support belt will help you maintain an optimal posture as you go about your daily routine, making your spine straight and keeping it upright, while your shoulders are back and your abdomen is tucked in. Such a back belt will not only put a stop to slouching by aligning the spine and supporting the vertebrae but also remove the stress from your entire spinal column as it supports the body from the outside.
Back Belts for Posture Should Be Worn Two Hours Per Day At Most
However, although we may feel like wearing such belts would be helpful for eight or more hours a day, medical experts caution again that they can easily be overused, leading to a further weakening of our vital core muscles. In fact, when worn to improve our posture, back and waist support belts should actually only be used for a maximum of two hours per day. When used correctly, they can force your abdominal muscles to support your body, as they should be doing -- instead of the back muscles, which places an inordinate strain on the spine. Your back muscles will also become stronger just by being aligned.
In the end, you will have a strengthened abdominal core, supporting a spine that is free of unnecessary stress.