Many people who perform heavy lifting at work choose to wear abdominal belts or braces to support their backs in an effort to prevent injury. This may inspire others to wear these belts while they are lifting in their everyday lives. These belts can be prescribed after surgery or other procedures and it is always advised to follow your doctor’s orders.
However, for people who are looking to protect their backs during lifting, use of an abdominal belt can be counterproductive because it can inhibit engagement of the core muscles that are the most effective in stabilizing the spine and preventing low back pain. Unless otherwise prescribed, one can successfully prevent low back pain and injury through targeting core strengthening and using proper lifting mechanics without use of an abdominal belt.
To engage your lower abdominal muscles, pull your belly button in and up toward your spine while lifting. This will help to stabilize your pelvis and spine, thus preventing injury. You can strengthen all of your core muscles by performing core stabilization exercises 3x/week (not discussed in this issue).
There are several lifting techniques which utilize good body mechanics that you can use:
The Power Lift: Bend at your hips and knees, not your spine, and keep your chest up. This helps to ensure that you don’t bend at your spine.
The Deep Squat: Bend only your knees into a full squat. You must have good knees and strong legs to perform this lift!
The One Knee Lift: Kneel down onto one knee, then lift the load and place onto the raised leg before standing.
Just remember to always maintain a neutral spine (slight inward curve in your low back) whenever you’re lifting, pushing or pulling; and only bend your legs, NOT your spine!