What are the pros and cons of using a lumbar belt for lower back pain? It probably does depend on what the cause of your lower back pain is (but there is a simple rule to apply in making the decision which you´ll find at the end of this article if you want to skip the detail).

The Pros

It can provide physical support

Many people feel that a lumbar support belt is helpful when they have recently developed severe lower back pain – the kind that spasms and makes you grab for support.  This is probably because your back is irritable to the point that your central nervous system is causing sudden muscle spasms.  By providing external support this may reduce the likelihood of spasming by actually limiting movement at the irritable segments in your lower back.

It can provide reassurance

And if it does, that may encourage you to move more than you would otherwise.  That is a very good thing because movement is an essential part of a rapid recovery; see “Should I do exercises for lower back pain / sciatica?

It is inexpensive

A decent lumbar support can be bought for less than 40 pounds.  If it helps, that´s not a huge amount.

The Cons

They are definitely not a good thing long-term

Prolonged use of support belts can lead to a reduction in the performance of your supporting abdominal and lumbar muscles, making it more likely you´ll have a recurrence of pain.

Putting it on can be painful

Getting it on correctly can be difficult if you´re having spasms of pain.  You have to be able to stand still and hold your ground while pulling strongly on the belt.  Tip: be sure to brace your abdominal muscles when doing this.

The alternative to lumbar support belts

Use abdominal bracing whenever transitioning from one posture to another.  This is free and it´s a good thing to learn when you´re in pain so that it becomes an automatic action.  More on this in our online course for lower back pain and sciatica.

Lumbar support belt – yes or no?

The decision rests on trying it.  If you feel better for using it and are able to be a bit more active, then it´s a good thing in the short term. If it doesn´t make your back pain easier to manage, it´s a waste of money – shame that you may have to spend the money to find this out 🙁  This is entirely consistent with the number 1 rule – Use it or Lose it, But Don´t Abuse it.