Lower back support belts provide additional support to the spine through the lumbar region of the back when lifting heavy objects. While there is little evidence proving that lumbar support belts reduce pressure on the spine, the intra-abdominal pressure increases during belt use, reminding lifters to use proper form, according to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report in 1996. The most "effective" belt is a matter of personal preference and physical condition.
Lumbar Support Belts
A lumbar support belt wraps around the lower back region, where the lumbar vertebrae concave toward your belly. These belts are used to prevent back strain when lifting, exercising or standing for long periods of time. A weightlifter's belt is a type of lumbar support belt made of stiff leather pulled tightly around the gut. It limits the mobility of the lumbar region to promote proper lifting form with the legs. General use lumbar belts are often made of more flexible material with a Velcro cinch system. Lumbar support belts may have suspenders to reduce the stress on the lower back and to help to keep the support belt in place. Softer materials allow more flexibility and range of motion in activities that require movement beyond the basic lifting motion a weightlifter performs.
Full Back Supports
Full back supports have a larger surface areas of padding to extend over more of the back. Some belts designed for women include a sacral back extension, widening the support at the hips. Many of these belts resemble a corset worn by women, pulling the spine into alignment from the mid and upper back down to the buttocks. These support belts are in the rehabilitation of spine injuries as well as to correct posture issues that could result in more significant back problems. Supporting the entire back prevents lower back twisting and potential injury.
Research is still being conducted on the benefits of wearing support belts for the lower back. Many employers now require those performing heavy lifting to wear support belts to promote a safe work environment. Along with the belts, many companies are doing a better job of training employees in proper lifting techniques. There is some concern reported by the NIOSH that wearing lumbar support belts may give someone a false sense of safety, possible increasing the chance of injury.