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Health problems and injuries occur very often at different workplaces. They may be caused by various reasons, starting with an inappropriate working environment and finishing with negligence of the staff. Namely, a widespread health disorder connected with the back and spine. Sportsmen, baggage handlers, loaders, and workers of the warehouses are exposed to a considerable risk.
Back Belts for Sportsmen, Industrial Workers, Pregnant Women
To improve safety standards and avoid major risk factors, many companies have developed different programs and strategies. The most widespread are such measures as special training for employees and implementation of additional equipment. Among other safety devices, back supporting belts have become highly popular lately.
Back belts usually look like elastic strips of cloth, sometimes with additional rubber or leather inserts. They are widely used by workers in different industries to prevent strains and injuries, especially when lifting heavy loads. Such belts are worn around the back, namely the lower part. They are believed to support the spine and pelvic girdle. What is more, this equipment allows to reduce pressure on the back muscles and relieves pain in the lumbar sector.
The manufacturers of back belts state that the effectiveness of such devices is scientifically proven. One of the major companies producing health equipment of this type is named Serola Biomechanics. It is believed to be among the pioneers in the supporting belts market. In 1988 chiropractor Rick Serola conducted several types of research and experiments. One such study revealed the fact that muscle stability and strength are greatly improved due to the stabilization of the lower back sector. Consequently, the doctor started to produce spine supporting devices, and later a Serola company was established.
The Serola Biomechanics Corporation
Nowadays the Serola Biomechanics Corporation produces a big variety of back belts for sportsmen, industrial workers, pregnant women, etc. Besides, their goal is to educate the medical staff and general public about the peculiarities of sacroiliac joint work. According to the Serola theory, described on the company’s official website (2012), this part of the spine is exposed to the greatest risk during any kind of physical activity and needs particular protection. Besides, this joint is the most common reason for pains in the area of the back, pelvis, and even legs. Eventually, the company strives to get a deeper insight into the nature of spine and back disorders and also to find the best way to avoid them.
Another popular producer of back supporting devices is named Back-A-Line. It needs to be said that this company denies the absolute use of ordinary back belts. According to their approach, a special technology should be used for positive results. Due to the unique orthopedic characteristics, Back-A-Line belts provide a firm and secure support not only for the spine and back muscles but also for the abdomen and inner muscles. The main idea of such equipment application lies in ensuring strong stabilization of the posture, especially while lifting heavy objects.
However, several types of research prove that back supporting belts are not effective at all for avoiding injuries and improving the health of the workers. Some of the organizations even state that such equipment may be harmful in some cases. One of the most active opponents of the back belts is named The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They have conducted numerous researches on the topic and presented their results in several articles.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Namely, NIOSH scientists state in one of their publications (1996) that different back supporting devices should not be considered a universal cure for industrial injuries. According to Atkinson (2005), there is a wide list of evidence against the usage of belts. First of all, the workers may have too much trust in the effect of the belt and overestimate their abilities. The belt does not allow people to lift more than they normally can.
One more NIOSH argument is connected with the muscle changes, caused by the frequent usage of such equipment. Natural muscle tone may be considerably weakened. Consequently, a person will have a strong dependence on additional support. What is more, wearing a belt does not always keep the back in the right position. The spine may be firmly supported, and incorrectly bent at the same time. In addition, back supporting belts cannot effectively help with the existing health problem. Even if the pain can be partially reduced during physical activity, there remains a possibility to worsen the injury or to receive a new health disorder.
Taking into consideration the stated arguments, it should be said that they are rather objective. Back belts cannot be considered a universal solution to all problems. Nevertheless, the use of back supporting devices should not be underestimated either. Cluett (2010) reasonably notices that only the usage of belts cannot reduce the number of back injuries and pains in enterprises. However, such devices can help to maintain a correct work posture.
Consequently, the implementation of health and safety programs at the companies should not be limited by the usage of back belts by the staff. In addition, various training and educational courses should be started to teach the workers to move, bend and lift heavy objects correctly. A good ergonomic work posture is vital for safety and effectiveness in any workplace. A short anatomy course providing information about spine work would be also quite useful for the employees. What is more, improving the health of the workers with the help of sport would be very sensible. For this reason, the staff should be encouraged to do correct warming-up exercises before starting to fulfill their duties.
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