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Tight Belt Syndrome – Sounds Stupid… It’s Not.


February 2014

I have suffered through, for two and a half decades, a sore back.  Some days are worse than others but once I added cycling they were few and far between.  The bad days, though rare now, were (and are) almost unbearable.  Finding a comfortable position to sleep in can be an exercise in futility.  I always thought it was the result of a severe beat down I received while in a drunken, passed out stupor so I just sucked it up and lived with it.

Sitting down with my wife’s mom and stepdad last night they explained a new problem he was diagnosed with… He’s been losing weight lately and had developed the same pain I’ve lived with for so long.  Generally speaking, it’s a left side, lower back pain that radiates to the middle and down.  In my case, I could find temporary relief (a few to ten minutes) by stretching my right leg over my left, shoulders flat, letting my right leg dangle over
the side of my bed by 6-8″… It was a BIG stretch.

Come to find out that because my stepdad-in-law has been losing weight he’s been tightening his belt to keep his pants from falling down… Tightening his belt too much pinched a nerve – guess where.

Being skinny for all but a year of my life (and having next to no butt) had me constantly cranking down the belt to keep my pants up. Once I started cycling, not to put too fine a point on it, I got an ass so I didn’t have to crank my belt down to keep my pants up anymore. In short, I’ve given the nerve time to heal, swelling has gone down, yada, yada, yada.

Now, this information makes some things make sense but I haven’t checked this with my own doctor yet to make sure it’s right. The internet is flush with information on skinny jean syndrome but rather short on the tight belt version. My stepdad-in-law switched to suspenders on his diagnosis and that netted him tremendous results.

From what I’ve read, you should be able to fit two stacked fingers between your belt and skin, if you can’t you could end up with back pain. If you can’t keep your trousers up and keep them loose enough for the two fingers, suspenders are recommended.  I’m not about to jump on the suspenders bandwagon just yet (maybe 15 years hence) because I can live with those few and far between days now and again (I also learned that icing my back will help too…  I never even considered that) but I’d consider it if I ever went back to the bad old days where I was hurting three to four days a week.

Now, on another note, I read one article that suggested Lycra and Spandex clothing can cause problems as well, especially with “skinny jean syndrome” but I’m an everyday cyclist and I’ve never had a problem.  The point and reason for this post is to raise awareness so that others might not have to live with the pain for as long as I did.


  1. Kecia says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing Jim!!

  2. elisariva says:

    I fully understand that chronic pain sucks! Now my two female cents on the fashion front: blue jeans – get a size the fits and doesn’t need a belt. Old Navy has jeans for under $20 that look great. Same goes for cords and khakis. Dress pants – don’t wear clip on suspenders!! You aren’t a farmer. But – dress pants with sewn in stylish suspenders – hot!

    Spandex – Castelli and other high end brands have cycle shorts that have a blended in waist band. Spandex expands with you so it shouldn’t bind, it is the elastic waist band some brands sew in that bonds.

    Don’t you love it though when the cause of your pain can be remedied with a tweek and not a drug??

    • bgddyjim says:

      Indeed! For jeans, that doesn’t always work and a belt is workable, you just can’t crank it down. Agreed with the slacks and suspenders (I have two suits with that setup). The spandex/Lycra deal is tricky. I don’t have a problem at all, I just through that in for others – bibs would be the way to go in that case.

      Thank you for the suggestions, I’ll add them to the post.

  3. […] I suffer from tight belt syndrome and have written about it before (it’s one of my more popular posts of late).  If I wear anything too tight around my waist, I end up with severe back pain.  […]

  4. I lost nearly 20 lbs early in 2018 and started having issues with this. I suspected it might have something to do with my belt because the pain was precisely where my belt hits my spine. I search for tight belt back pain and ended up here. My pain is slightly different, but reading this, it does sound like my suspicion could be related to your stepfather-in-law’s. Oddly enough, I purchased suspenders about a year ago but wasn’t keen on wearing them. I’m going to give it a shot and see if it goes away. I might air up the tires on my bike and give that a whirl too. Thanks for posting.

    • bgddyjim says:

      My pleasure, Dale. I’ve had much better luck with my back since I took notice and used a bit more care not cinching my belt down so tight. Good luck, brother.

  5. Interesting post, bro. I had no idea, but it totally makes sense. I’ve lost a couple of sizes in my jeans and am having to tighten my belt to keep my pants from sliding (‘cos I’m from that generation where that kinda thing still matters). I’ll have to be sure and make sure I’m not overtightening. Thanks for this my friend.

  6. Hmmm, this may be my problem.
    Thank you for this article.

  7. joliesattic says:

    I wasn’t sure I was gonna finish reading this one, but I did. It turns out, my hubby has no butt, but he’s considerably older and has a gut (despite all the bike riding he does). But… he’s also been complaining of back pain and… he tends to wear over tight jeans and cinching up his belt, because his pants fall down! He hates suspenders but did buy some and wore them in winter, so they could be over a t-shirt and under his other shirt. In summer, he doesn’t do that. So… if that helps any. He still has back pain, but it’s further up and no known reason for why. There are no vital organs where his is.

  8. Joseph Teffeteller says:

    When you were having pain was your back always sore to the touch at your spine? And hurt when you rock your hips side to side?

    • bgddyjim says:

      The pain was ever present… didn’t matter how I moved. I never paid attention to whether or not it hurt when I rocked my hips – I wish I had. It was not sore at my spine, it was a deep “muscular” pain. It felt like it was in my kidney area.

  9. Gareth S says:

    So glad I came across this! Physios have given no explanation for my low back pain being exacerbated by belts, tight fitting boxer trunks, etc. but there’s been a clear correlation for years. Thanks for posting this!

  10. Mike says:

    Interesting reading, did you ever suffer from pain along the iguinal area and down to the pubic symphasis ?, working from home wearing over tight jeans tight belt for the past 18 months usually in an office wearing comfertable trousers, trying physio but pain persists, anybody with similar issues and how long to cure.

    • bgddyjim says:

      My pain was concentrated deep in my lower back, think kidneys deep… on occasion it would radiate down the glute, particularly favoring the left side and bring in the hamstrings. By that point I was in such raging pain, I’d just take a couple of Aleve and hope for the best. I don’t recall anything radiating to the front but this was all a long time ago… I’m virtually pain free now so the memory is fuzzy.

    • Willie says:

      Hey Mike, just responding to your inguinal question, for me, yes, but it wasn’t so much pain, but more of a pressure type feeling, starting from my lower back, going only down my left side then at times crossing over to my inguinal/crotch region. I’ve worn my belt too tight, and tight underwear too, didn’t help. I’d also get a searing stabbing pain in my left outer thigh, so painful it would stop me in my tracks, lasting night longer than a few seconds but boy, a painful few seconds.

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