Back Braces and Work - Do they Really Prevent Occupational Injuries?
Back braces are a topic that is surrounded by lots of misconceptions. Many people think they will prevent occupational injuries, but the truth is there is no evidence to support this claim.
We also know from scientific research and studies that back braces do not reduce pain or improve function in patients with low back pain. And if you're wearing one because of a work-related injury, it could actually make your condition worse over time.
Back pain is one of the most common health complaints in the office, affecting individuals in various occupations and industries. It accounts for a third of all reported injuries and illnesses in the workplace. That's why both employers and workers often try different prevention treatments to address the issue, with back braces as the most common one.
Back braces aim to provide a single solution that will protect workers from back injuries regardless of their sectors. It is a way of preventing unnecessary movements that further damage the back. This helps align your spine and strengthens your back muscles. Your lower-back pain will decrease as you heal, all while wearing this comfortable and lightweight device. A back brace also takes support away from the vital areas of a person's back, such as the spine, intervertebral discs, and vertebrae.
But do they really work? Here's what you need to know about back braces and their effectiveness, plus alternative treatments.
A Lack of Evidence
Although back braces are relatively popular, there's no sufficient evidence backing their effectiveness. Some lab studies suggest that back braces can reduce spinal loading and restrict trunk flexibility to prevent over-flexing. Still, there's no evidence out there that shows wearing braces can prevent injuries—and general pain.
Back Pain Alternative Prevention Methods
Fortunately, even if back braces aren't as effective as people thought, you can still take several steps to prevent back pain and injuries at the workplace by trying out alternative treatment methods.
Whether it's a mild ache or an intense throbbing, the discomfort can be debilitating. It might feel like there is no way to escape your suffering. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can relieve your back pain without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery.
To get the best results for yourself or for someone you care about who's suffering from chronic or acute back pain, try these tips instead:
- Pay Attention to Your Posture - It's important to pay attention to your posture. Slouching constantly can lead to severe back pain and other health issues. That's why it's wise to keep your back straight and stand tall, so that you're taking care of your spine. A person’s posture is a result of lifestyle, habit and convenience. People walk, sit and stand in a way that they see fit. However, just being mindful of proper posture can help a person prevent and relieve back pain.
- Develop Your Abs - An important way to prevent back pain is to develop the abdominal muscles. This may seem counterintuitive to some as it entails exercise that may be back breaking. However, the abdominals are the counterpart of whole sets of back muscles from below the trapezius down to the glutes and the thigh and calf muscles. If the abdominals are not developed, the weight of the front of the torso is borne by the back muscles. Additionally, developing the abs will help lose weight in the front, resulting in less weight for the back muscles.
- Lift Objects Properly - Lift Objects Properly - Pick it up, don't just carry it! Sure you want to be able to pick up heavy items with ease? If not, then follow these 3 simple steps.
First: Start in a low squat position and hold the item close to your body with both hands. This will keep your back straight as well as prevent any unnecessary strain on the muscles of your arms or shoulders.
Second: Straighten out one leg so that you are now in an upright standing position while still holding onto the item tightly. Third: Bring the second leg up next to the first and stand fully upright again while still keeping a firm grip on whatever it is you're carrying before finally setting it down on its intended destination.
- Modify Repetitive Tasks - You might not realize it, but repetitive tasks like typing or mowing the lawn can cause a lot of strain on your back. The good news is that there are some small changes you can make to help prevent this from happening.
One thing to do is modify the task when possible by using your feet for pushing buttons or flipping channels instead of using your hands. You could also use an ergonomic chair and adjust the height so that you're in a more comfortable position while working- maybe with one leg crossed over another, for instance. This will keep your torso upright in a healthy position, which won't put any additional pressure on your spine as well.
- Attend to Your Body's Needs - Sitting for long periods can be a recipe for disaster if you don't take the necessary precautions. If you need to sit for more than a few minutes, change positions often or go for a quick stroll around the office. This will help your back stay pain-free and healthy so it can do its job of supporting your body's weight without any obstacles.
Although a couple of studies have proven back braces or belts to be protective, they don't reduce back injuries. As the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health expresses concern regarding the issue, it provides better prevention alternatives which protect workers from occupational injuries long-term. The NIOSH stresses a key idea that back braces or belts don't reduce back injuries.