If you've ever walked through a department or grocery store
while employees were stocking shelves or moving supplies,
probably witnessed a back belt in action. Many employers recommend
or require back belts to reduce employee injuries and injury
But are back belts effective? Not according to a study in
the December 6, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American
Medical Association. In the largest study of its kind,
incidence rates of workers' compensation claims and six-month
incidence rates of self-reported low back pain were gathered
from 13,873 employees at 160 retail merchandise stores in
30 states. Eighty-nine stores required back belt use; 71 had
a voluntary back-belt policy. All employees were interviewed
at the study's inception and again at a two-year follow-up.
Results showed that neither frequent back belt use nor a
store policy requiring such use had any significant effect
on back injury claim rates or self-reported back pain. Accounting
for multiple risk factors, such as lifting frequency and/or
a history of previous back injury, did not substantially alter
In 1998, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey revealed
that Americans suffered nearly 300,000 back injuries due to
overexertion, and resulting in lost workdays. As this study
shows, back belts probably aren't the answer to this growing
problem. Fortunately, there are other options, including sound
advice and care from an expert in dealing with back pain:
your local doctor of chiropractic. For more information on
back pain, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/tyh/backpain.html.
To find a chiropractor near you, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/cgi-bin/locator.
Wassell JT, Gardner LI, Landsittel DP, et al. A prospective
study on back belts for prevention of back pain and injury.
Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec. 6,
2000: Vol. 284, No. 21, pp2727-32.