From time to time I will get the odd client presenting to the clinic with a history of lower back pain asking whether a back brace would be good to wear whilst they are at work. These clients who ask this question are generally those who work involves manual handling. From a clinical perspective I generally advise against individuals adopting the use of a back brace long term for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons include the fact that the individual is more likely to rely on the back brace whilst at work and therefore they may find themselves lifting more than they actually should be because of the false sense of security that the belt brings. In some circumstances individuals continue to lift and move with poor movement patterns whilst wearing the brace rather than trying to correct the dysfunctional patterns that may well have lead to their back complaint starting in the first place. There is also the argument that the brace is actually taking over the role of the core musculature and therefore may impact on the individuals natural function of these muscles.
Worksafe Victoria have published the document “Back belts are not effective in reducing back injuries”. This document can be downloaded by clicking here. In this document they state that many people will choose to wear a brace because they feel they will get more support. Scientific evidence from the document reports:
- Research from NIOSH show that back belts provide a minimal reduction in cmpressive force and do no significantly reduce the risk of injury.
- Some of the research shows that wearing a belt may infact increase compressive and shearing forces of the spine.
- Back belts do not change the activity levels of spinal muscles in any posture.
- Wearing a back belt has no effect on muscle fatigue or the maximum weight able to be lifted.
- Wearing a back belt can result in increased diastolic blood pressure.
From a clinical perspective I have actually prescribed the use of back braces for clients with acute low back pain. In clients with acute low back pain that benefit from stability and restricted movement, a back brace can help. For other clients presenting with acute lower back pain that don’t want to wear a back brace, taping with rigid tape and kinesiotape or rocktape can be of use from a proprioceptive and stability point of view. As an Osteopath who works in clinical practice and also consults in occupational health and safety, I would highly recommend any client wanting to wear a brace or currently wearing a brace to consult with their primary health care practitioner (general practitioner, osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist) to review whether this is of benefit to you.
This blog was written by Osteopath Heath Williams. Heath is the director of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia. Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathic clinics. The clinic is located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD at 29 Somerset Place (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St). Appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online @ www.principlefourosteopathy.com.
Corporate Work Health Australia is a nationwide Occupational Health & Safety Company that provides ergonomic and manual handling consulting, risk assessments and training. All of our trainers and assessors are registered osteopaths and physiotherapists. To find out more about our services, please go to www.corporateworkhealth.com.