Back Belts and Lifting Techniques
Studies on the effectiveness of wearing back belts for manual material handling have yielded conflicting results. Back belt
studies also have not determined the effects of belts when lifting large vs. small boxes, or if there is any "carryover effect" from
initially wearing a belt and then lifting without. The authors of this study sought to evaluate the effects of an elastic lumbar
back support on spine kinematics, for the lifting of large and small boxes of the same weight (9.4 kg). They also determined
the carryover effects of wearing a belt and subsequently lifting without it.
Twenty-eight subjects (ages18-42 years) with no prior low back pain and at least six months of manual-handling experience
lifted small and large boxes over three periods. During the lifting periods, subjects moved boxes from pallet height to a table
that was to the right of the original box location, necessitating a bending and twisting motion of the body. Each lifting period
consisted of 50 lifts at a rate of three lifts per minute. An 18-minute rest period was provided between lifting sessions, as per
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) guidelines. Spine, hip, and knee motion, as well as angular
velocity measurements of the spine, were measured during the lifting periods. One group used a belt initially, then lifted
without it; the opposite was true for the second group.
The study yielded several results regarding back belt use:
* Left twisting and right lateral bending were "significantly reduced" in subjects lifting large boxes.
* Maximum spine flexion, torso left lateral bending angular velocity, and flexion and extension angular velocities were
significantly reduced when lifting both large and small boxes.
* The researchers observed no significant carryover effects within groups.
This study supports prior research that indicates the importance of wearing back belts for manual lifting tasks: belts appear
to result in slower lifts, proper squat-lift technique, and reduced torso motions.
Giorcelli RJ, Hughes RE, Wassell JT, et al. The effect of wearing a back belt on spine kinematics during asymmetric lifting of
large and small boxes. Spine, August 15, 2001:26(16), pp. 1794-1798.