The effect of a commercially available abdominal support belt on torso posture, lift strength, and spinal compression

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Virginia Tech

Intervention programs have been developed to reduce the occurrence and recurrence of back pain and to prevent low-back injury. One program involves the wearing of abdominal support belts when manual materials handling activities are performed. However, poor postures and restricted ranges-of-motion may result due to belt usage. Unfortunately to date, the majority of research available regarding support belt effects only address those supports designed for therapeutic reasons. The primary purpose of this research was to measure changes in posture when a commercially available support belt was worn. The support belt used in this investigated was the Decade Back Support manufactured by Chase Ergonomics, Incorporated. In addition, this study investigated whether the Decade belt affected static lift strength and predicted spinal compression of the L3/L4 intervertebral disc.

Eight males and eight females, aged 23.6 ± 2.6 and 22.4 ± 4.3 years respectively, were asked to perform maximal static exertions on handles attached to a steel rig. The exertions differed in symmetry and handle height while the support belt was worn and not worn. Posture data was collected through a WATSMART 3-D motion analysis system. The vertebra prominens body landmark was examined to determine if there was a change in flexion and lateral bending angle of the torso across Belt conditions. Axial twist angle between the shoulders and the hips was also investigated. Strength data was collected through a force platform across three orthogonal axes. Spinal compression was predicted through the use of the Minimum Intensity Compression (MIC) biomechanical model proposed by Bean, Chaffin, and Schultz (1988).

It was found that torso posture, with the exception of axial twist, and static strength were not significantly affected by belt use. Axial twist for low asymmetric exertions was significantly larger when the belt was worn as compared to when the belt was not worn. This result may have been caused by the belt not allowing the hips to turn with the upper torso when the low exertions were performed. Maximal strength exertion was not affected by belt use. Predicted spinal compression was significantly lower when the belt was worn (2737.87 N) as compared to the nonbelt conditions (3087.47 N).