Low back pain lumbar supports not reducing sick leave

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Lumbar or lower back supports – those large belts that people wear around their waists when they lift or carry heavy objects – are not very useful for preventing low back pain, according to a new systematic review.

Although many people use lumbar supports to bolster the back muscles, they are no more effective than lifting education – or no treatment whatsoever – in preventing related pain or reducing disability in those who suffer from the condition, reviewers found.

“We recommend the general population and workers not wear lumbar supports to prevent low back pain or for the management of low back pain,” said lead author Ingrid van Duijvenbode, a teacher and member of the research group at the Amsterdam School for Health Professionals in the Netherlands.

“Low back pain is very common and a major health problem in industrialized countries,” Ingrid van Duijvenbode said. “Prevention and treatment are important both to [sufferers] and to society, which bears the expense of sick leave due to low back pain treatment.”

Ingrid van Duijvenbode and her colleagues looked at 15 studies – seven prevention and eight treatment studies – that included more than 15,000 people. When measuring pain prevention or reduction in number of sick days used, the researchers found little or no difference between people who used supports and their peers who did not.

“There is moderate evidence that lumbar supports do not prevent low back pain or sick leave more effectively than no intervention or education on lifting techniques in preventing long-term low back pain,” Ingrid van Duijvenbode said. “There is conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of lumbar supports as treatment compared to no intervention or other interventions.”

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library.

Source: Center for the Advancement of Health, USA

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