“ Brand: Diane Lee / Type: Sacroiliac support belt „
Following on from my cluster of SI (Sacroiliac) belt reviews we've finally reached the best belt I've ever had. Diane Lee designed this belt and it's no coincidence it's so good. Diane Lee is world famous in the physiotherapy world for the enormous amount of research she has done about SI joints and how they go wrong and what needs doing with them to help them. Her book "The Pelvic Girdle" is the most detailed book I've ever read and really helped me to understand all about SI joint dysfunction. When I saw she'd designed a belt I started looking for it online but it wasn't until recently I found a UK site that stocked them. The site is www.physiouk.co.uk and the postage and packaging is a mere £1.50 for UK customers.
The Compressor belt comes in 3 sizes, extra small/small is for people with less than 36 inch hips, medium/large covers 36-44 inches and extra large 44-70 inches. In the sizing for this belt I come in at a small and by hips the area you should actually measure is the pelvis above the actual hip joint so that description could be quite misleading. The belt arrived in a few days and came with a sticker saying it could not be returned for hygiene reasons so I hoped I'd got my measurements correct! The small and medium belts cost £28.99 and the large £34.99.
The belt comes with a booklet that explains how to use it. That might sound a bit odd but this belt is no ordinary belt and these instructions will be vital for most people. Research has shown the Transversus Abdominals compress the front of the pelvis when working correctly and the Multifidus compresses the back of the pelvis. These muscles can stop working for a variety of reasons: bad posture, a back injury can switch them off and they don't recover without specific training, pregnancy, hypermobile joints which is my problem, direct injuries to the area and neurological problems. That isn't all the reasons but it covers the majority. Once these muscles stop supporting the pelvis and spine you're in for a whole world of pain and problems and the muscles that shouldn't stabilise the area start to tighten and get full of painful trigger points (knots) and the effects cascade up and down the chain so it can become a whole body problem over time. The pelvis is the centre of the body and should transfer load effectively and once it becomes dysfunctional even standing on one leg can become impossible.
The way Diane Lee instructs the customer to figure out how they need to use the belt is using an Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR). When the SI joints aren't functioning correctly usually one leg is infinitely more difficult to lift than the other and feels lots heavier. On me it's the left leg I can barely get off the floor while the right leg feels easy to lift. It doesn't matter which leg feels heavier what matters is where you need extra support.
The Compressor comes with detachable straps which is different from every other belt on the market. Not just 2 straps either but 4 so you can add more or less compression. To figure out how the straps need to be applied the ASLR is performed with no help from compression, then with hands in various places to simulate the muscles so you find out which muscles aren't working on each side. This can be the same muscles from side to side or opposite to each other and that's why this belt is head and shoulders above the rest. The placement of your hands is described in detail in the booklet so it's not difficult to do and you test various placements while performing an ASLR until you find the combination that makes the difficult leg alot easier to lift. For me it's the Transversus Abs on the left and Multifidus on the right so different from side to side.
Once you've established where you need the straps you can put the belt on. The actual belt is about 4 inches wide and made of soft material, inside there are slightly padded areas that sit on the sides of the pelvis where the straps will be applied. The front fastens with velcro so there's no painful metal buckles like some belts have. That's just the base and doesn't do anything on its own. The straps are strong elastic with red stripes down them. On one end they have a large rectangle of velcro and on the other end a smaller triangular piece of velcro. One set of straps are smaller than the other set, the small ones are about 5 inches long and the larger ones about 7 inches. The reason for this is the short ones provide stronger compression than the longer ones and you can apply either just the short ones, just the long ones or for a pelvis like mine both sets at the same time to provide adequate compression. You can't just stick them on willy nilly though, there's a method that relates to your earlier findings with the ASLR.
To support a weak Transversus Abs you take whichever strap you will be using and stick the large rectangular piece of velcro behind the joint at the back of the pelvis (the booklet shows exact placement) then pull the strap forwards to the front of the pelvis and attach the smaller piece of velcro at the front. For weak multifidus you do the opposite and apply the large piece of velcro at the front and pull it backwards then stick the smaller piece of velcro on the back. It's down to personal choice how many straps you use and trial and error is the best method. That is the reason this belt is so different and so much better than the rest, the ability to have correct compression on each side.
So how am I finding it? It's the most comfortable belt I've worn and the 4 straps I have to use do actually support my pelvis. I've never got much help from SI belts in the past but that's probably because other types just squash the entire pelvis together regardless of what it actually needs. You can tell someone who really understands SI joint problems designed this belt and it's a vast improvement on the others I've worn. The belt itself is very soft and comfortable and can be washed easily by hand or on a gentle cool cycle. The straps can be a bit tough to pull, especially the short ones, but you get used to it over time. The only minor gripe I have is the width of the straps, they are slightly wider than the actual belt so overlap at the edges and you have to be careful not to get them where they will dig into the skin if you sit down or bend but I've only had one occasion when this happened and I just moved the strap slightly and it stopped it rubbing. The idea behind the belt is to wear it until you have retrained your muscles to support the pelvis then gradually wean yourself off it. For me it's a lifetime necessity I suspect because my ligaments don't support my joints properly so it's next to impossible to sort out the muscles, however it's the best belt I've worn so I'll probably invest in a couple so when one's drying I have another to wear. This belt will also fit under clothes without being really obvious so it can be worn all the time unless you're into slinky catsuits of course!
I'm giving it a full 5 stars and recommend it to anyone with SI joint problems for a comfortable, precise and secure fit. If you are pregnant and in need of a belt this one is not suitable and you need a specific maternity type.