We are all too familiar with the visible riding gear: helmet, goggles, neck collars, gloves, riding shirt and pants, and boots. Then there are some very important “below the surface” extras such as knee braces, elbow pads, chest protectors and kidney belts. A kidney belt is a piece of gear no serious rider should be without. Let’s learn a little about kidney belts and why they should be a definite thumbs up’.
Your kidneys are located in the middle of your back, right below the rib cage, with one on each side of your spine. They are bean shaped and are about the size of your fist. The kidneys are imbedded in a mass of fatty tissue. They are very small organs by weight, but they receive 20% of the blood pumped by the heart. The kidneys require such a large amount of blood in order to perform the following functions:
- Control the make-up of your blood
- Keep the levels of ions and other substances steady
- Maintain the volume of water in your body
- Excrete wastes from the body (through urine)
- Steady the levels of acid/base in the blood
- Aids in maintaining your blood pressure
- Support the production of red blood cells
- Regulates the body’s calcium levels
The back is made up of 3 sections: the Cervical Spine, Thoracic Spine and the Lumbosacral Spine. The Lumbosacral Spine, the lowest most part of the back, is the area most affected when riding motocross.
A lumbar curve subjected to poor posture when riding and repeated bouncing and jerking motions can cause nerve compression, irritation, inflammation, and may result in any of the following types of lower back related symptoms or pain:
- Dull ache
- Sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain
- Spasm or tension
- Pins and needles feeling
- Numbness or tingling
- Burning pain
- Feelings of back fatigue
- Radiating pain into the hip, buttock, thigh, leg, or foot
- Pain aggravated by movements or positions
What is a kidney belt?
Kidney belts are generally made from some sort of breathable, elastic fabric and Velcro. They are thicker at the back and narrower at the front. This is to protect the kidneys, located at the back, and at the same time, not disrupt the normal breathing pattern. They stretch around the lowest part of the back and the waist region, usually fastening at the side or front.
When purchasing a kidney belt, most sizing is done by measuring inches around the waist. All brands are different, so be sure to pay careful attention to the sizing. It should fasten securely and tightly around the waist area without constricting your breathing. Kidney belts can be purchased alone or they can also be connected to body armor or a ballistic jersey. This is a great way to get chest, shoulder, elbow and kidney protection all in one.
Why use a kidney belt?
Kidney belts are designed to serve a couple purposes. The first is to help keep your kidneys and neighboring organs protected and the second is to help stabilize your back.
First, your kidneys are not connected to any strong structures, but instead are nestled inside fatty tissue. This means that they are easily moved and jiggled around. When out for a ride, especially dirt tracks or trail rides, your body is put through a large amount of bouncing and jostling. Going over jumps, taking sharp turns, hitting ruts, rocks or roots will all give your insides a good shaking. This can cause pain and tenderness after your ride, along with kidney bruising and blood in your urine. A kidney belt, when properly fastened, helps to reduce the amount of movement to your insides, thus reducing the pain you’ll feel at the end of a long day on your bike. Also, if you are unfortunate enough to have a crash, your kidney belt can help protect you against injuries to that area of your body, such as handlebars to the gut or contact with another rider or bike.
Secondly, it helps to aid in the reduction of pain in the lower lumbar area. When out for a long ride, your back will undoubtedly begin to ache. The stress put on a dirt bike rider’s body is unmatched. The constant training, practicing, and racing puts a large amount of stress on all muscles of your body and the back is affected big time. When in the seated attack position, such as in cornering, the lower lumbar region is the core area of support for your upper body. A kidney belt helps to stabilize your upper body and allows the rider to have maximum leverage over the bike, allowing them to be more aggressive and steer the bike in the direction it needs to go. When riding with a kidney belt, the rider is forced into a more upright sitting position, which will in turn help in the after affects of a long, hard ride. Lower back supports can reduce stress, and strain – and help to prevent further lower back injury, damage, and related pain.
When riding, a kidney belt not only protects the kidneys and other vulnerable lower area internal organs, it also provides great stability and support for the lower back. Many riders say it gives them extra confidence and also helps with fatigue after a long ride. You can never be too protected?we recommend you play it safe and get fastened!!