Are Tool Belts Bad For Your Back?

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A tool belt can be a huge help for those of us involved in carpentry, DIY projects, or other work that requires more than a handful of tools. It makes it much easier to carry around everything you need for the job. However, a heavy tool belt may not be the best choice long term as it may cause back and other bodily pains.

If worn regularly, a heavy tool belt can be a contributor to back pain. While a tool belt worn on occasion or one that is lightweight shouldn’t be an issue, a heavy one can put a strain on your posture and contribute to back pain. However, there are some ways to avoid these negative effects.

Tool belt full of tools

As someone who often wears tool belts when working on my house or engaging in some kind of fun DIY project, I know the downsides all too well. Having also worked as a low-voltage electronics technician in the past, I spent years wearing a tool belt every workday. I have experienced firsthand just how uncomfortable and pain-inducing they can be.

This article will look at some of the reasons why tool belts contribute to back pain as well as ways to decrease these effects.

How Tool Belts Contribute To Back Pain

A hip full of tools can get quite heavy and may be uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Besides being uncomfortable, they may also pose a problem for those who already experience back pain. Even if you aren’t someone with back pain, wearing a tool belt may get you started on that path. Let’s look at a couple of ways that they have contributed to back pain in my personal life.

Unbalanced Pull On One Side of Your Body

Depending on how heavy the tool belt is and the type, it may add a lot of additional weight to one side of your body. Most people that I have seen on the job have carried the type of tool belt that only contains a pouch on one side. This is the type I have always used and can say that this can put a strain on your lower back.

When my tool belt is full of my essential gear, it usually weighs between 5 and 7 pounds. This doesn’t sound like a lot but carrying that amount of weight around on the job all day places additional stress that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Many workers carry tool belts that weigh much more than this.

With this additional weight, your body is being pulled towards the heavy side and after a while, this can harm your overall well-being. Speaking from experience, carrying a tool belt like this around all day on the job can get painful by the end of the day.

You’ll notice a difference after removing the belt for the day. If you carry a belt like this, day in and day out over a long period of time, your body may begin to lean towards one side or the other. Since it’s pulling on your lower back all day as you wear it, your spine may become misaligned. It may help to see the chiropractor regularly if this is the case.

If you do have to wear a belt like this, there are a few other ways you can help to ward off potential problems. You may want to adopt a good stretching program before and after the job as well as some decompression therapy after the day is done. This can easily be done at home with the use of an inversion table or other apparatus that takes the pressure off your spine.

You may also consider getting involved in a functional fitness program.

They Add Extra Weight

If you have to carry a tool belt, you are probably doing a job in construction or some type of job that has you bending down, bending over, moving in odd positions, and carrying or lifting heavy objects. Adding a heavy tool belt to the mix will just increase the likelihood of back pain that much more.

This added weight can often make a challenging working environment even more difficult. It will give you a heavier feeling and can be uncomfortable all day long. Most people adjust over time and become so used to it that it feels like just another piece of clothing to them.

How To Avoid Back Pain When Wearing a Tool Belt

Only Carry The Essentials

There are usually only a certain number of tools that you use regularly no matter what type of work you do. These are the essentials and should be the ones that can be found in your tool belt. While it’s handy to carry around everything you might think you’ll need, it isn’t practical.

It’s better to carry only the absolute essentials in your tool belt and then carry the rest of the tools in a tool bag, tool bucket, or another container that can be carried from workspace to workspace without weighing you down.

You’ll have the essentials at an arms reach from your tool belt but if the job calls for something additional, you’ll have it in your tool bag that’s also right there in the workspace. If that particular workspace calls for a tool that isn’t a usual essential, it can be added to your tool belt while you are in that workspace.

Doing this will help you keep the load light and put less weight and stress on your hip joints and spine. This could help reduce back pain if you are already experiencing it.

Use Suspenders

If you must carry a large number of tools in your belt, suspenders provide a great way to do it and helps to distribute the weight between both sides of your body. It will place more of the weight on your shoulders rather than the hips. It will be a more comfortable way to carry your tool belt throughout the day.

Distribute Weight Evenly

Suspenders will help you to distribute weight more evenly but if you choose not to use suspenders, there are other ways to do it. Opting for a tool belt that has pouches on each side of the belt is always a good idea. Rather than having a single pouch hanging from one side, you can distribute tools between each side of your body.

This will help keep your spine straight rather than your hip pulling on it from only one side.

Do I Need A Tool Belt

A tool belt can certainly come in handy and for some trades, they are an absolute must. Specifically, carpenters or any trade that falls under this main category. They make work more efficient and are an expected piece of gear for the tradesmen working on the job.

Other trades such as electricians, electronic technicians, plumbers, and others that require a plethora of tools may also use them. If you are doing a job that requires you to carry around tools and you often find your pockets full of random tools, a tool belt may be for you! Even if you have only a few tools, a small tool belt may be perfect for helping you to organize it.

A tool belt is not for everyone. As an example, a car mechanic wouldn’t want to use one. It would likely make it difficult to maneuver around the car with a tool belt banging around. It’s easier to work straight from a toolbox in this case.

This comes down to the type of job you are doing. There is no right or wrong or no rule that says only certain workers can wear tool belts. In reality, if a tool belt will make you work more efficiently, then have at it!

Bottom Line

Yes, a tool belt can potentially increase back pain, at least this has been true for me. Carrying a heavy belt with all your tools in it can be handy but at the cost of back pain over the long term. It’s best if you figure out a solution where you don’t have to carry so much of a heavy load. Finding something that works best for you, whether it be a belt, vest, bucket, or other solution will be key in keeping back pain under control.