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Low back pain is one of the most common conditions we see in our clinic. You may have seen some people wearing a lumbar belt for support while performing daily tasks, heavy work, exercising, and following a low back injury.
While we do often recommend a lumbar belt, the key is knowing the correct timing to use it to get the maximum benefit. Using a lumbar belt for a long period of time could lead to weakness of the lumbar muscles which is not the best route for recovery. However, using the lumbar belt at the right time could help your lower back recover a lot faster than you think.
Most of the time after a lower back injury, we need some extra support around the area to allow the injured soft tissues to recover and not be overused.
This is how your body typically responds to a low back injury.
— Muscles in your lower back seize or spasm trying to protect the spine and important surrounding structures.
— Affected muscles start to build muscle memories which can last a very long time, leading to a chronic condition.
— This is a necessary part of the healing process if the condition is severe, but many times our body can over-do this process which causes severe pain and restrictions.
— Your body tries to compensate due to the decreased function, causing you to develop many other problems besides just back pain.
Now, let’s say you decided to use the lumbar belt right after your lower back was tweaked. Before your muscles could build muscle-memories your lumbar belt took over the job of protecting the structure and your muscles could rest instead of seizing up. Brilliant! Now, you will recover a lot faster since you are dealing with a lot less muscle-memories, compensation and additional body issues.
There are many types of lumbar belts to pick from, but for most low back injuries we recommend elastic lumbar belts, (left picture). It allows muscle function and stimulation which could speed up the healing process.
For more serious injuries or when there is a greater amount of instability, a firmer rigid brace can be used to protect the area more. However, this brace limits your muscle function which leads to a slower recovery. If you have a history of off and on back pain and are worried about travelling, elastic belts are small enough to pack in your carry-on bag.
While we recommend keeping a lumbar belt on hand in your first aid kit, it is just an adjunct to our treatments: Active Release Techniques, Chiropractic Adjustments, and Corrective Exercises. Decreasing pain and inflammation is the first step and correcting any underlying movement dysfunctions or weaknesses is the second step, which prevents the problem from becoming a chronic issue.