To visualize your x-ray lead apron’s weight, imagine going to work every day with a bowling ball tied around your neck, a bag of potatoes, or twenty rolls of quarters! That’s quite a considerable weight to lug around. It’s no wonder that radiologic professionals often complain about musculoskeletal pain.
How Much Does a Lead Apron Weigh?
X-ray lead apron weight is influenced by several variables such as how much of the body they cover, the type of covering fabric, and the thickness of the lead lining. Standard lead aprons vary in weight depending on size and style, but most range between 5 and 15 lbs with the average of a frontal apron being approximately 8 lbs. Obviously, the bigger and taller you are, the larger and heavier your apron will be. Also, everyone will experience the weight of their lead apron differently, depending on their own weight and muscular strength.
The most important variable, the thickness of the lead lining, also has a direct effect on the amount of protection that the apron provides. A 0.35mm Pb equivalent apron weighs slightly less than a 0.5mm Pb equivalent one but affords a slightly lower level of shielding against the harmful effects of scatter radiation.
What Are the Effects of Wearing a Lead Apron on the Body?
Healthcare workers who routinely wear lead aprons for radiation protection in facilities, such as radiology departments and cardiac catheterization laboratories, face a higher risk of musculoskeletal pain. According to researchers, such people report job-related pain and seek medical treatment for pain more often than non-radiologic colleagues.
The impact of radiology lead apron weight is notable back pain, even amongst the young and healthy. Other problems are neck, shoulder, and general body pain, and fatigue. Pain is more likely to be reported by women and people required to wear a lead apron frequently and for long periods of time. Reports showed that workers who experienced pain most often were technicians, nurses, attending physicians, and new trainees.
Independent studies have proven that postural deviation from a load of frontal lead aprons shows:
- A shift in weight distribution towards the forefoot.
- Increased thoracic kyphosis (hunching of the upper back).
- An increase in lateral deviation from the mechanical load-bearing axis at the center of the knees.
- These deviations also correlate with increasing height, age, and length of use.
Mitigating these conditions can be challenging—reducing procedure time could compromise patient outcomes, and some procedures require healthcare workers to assume and hold awkward and uncomfortable positions.
Alternatives to Your Heavy X-Ray Lead Apron
#1. Wear the Correct Size Apron
If your apron doesn’t fit properly, this can add to musculoskeletal pain. It may be too big or hang incorrectly from your shoulders. To ensure that you are wearing the perfect size apron for your height and body shape, Barrier Technologies® has developed a revolutionary X-ray Apron Sizer that you can download here.
#2. Choose a Lead-Free Lightweight Apron
These contain attenuating substances such as bismuth, titanium, tungsten, and other metal alloys, while still providing comparable protection against scatter radiation. They weigh approximately 36% less than standard lead aprons. Learn more about Barrier Technologies’ stylish, comfortable range of lead-free aprons.
#3. Add a Lumbar Support Belt
An ergonomically designed lumbar support belt will cinch in your apron and relieve back strain and fatigue. Try Barrier Technologies’ Elastic Belt with Drawstrings or our firm, but flexible Ortho Belt.
#4. Try a Full Wraparound Option
Instead of having all the weight of your lead apron hanging in front of you, select a full wraparound coat apron or two piece vest and skirt. These have lead lining both the front and the back. Although somewhat heavier, the weight is evenly distributed around your body and the added shielding offers better protection. Browse Barrier Technologies’ catalog to learn about our Full Vest and Skirt and Barrier Wrap with Support options.
#5. Use a Mobile Barrier
Did you know that you can ditch the apron for even better protection? Barrier Technologies patented Terminator XR is a body contouring, height adjustable, fully encapsulating, completely mobile barrier that provides 1.0mm Pb equivalent per panel and 2.0mm Pb equivalent in overlapping areas. Download the brochure.
Weight Comparison Chart
The following chart compares the weight of a medium-sized standard frontal lead apron to a lightweight lead-free option of the same size. The percentage difference remains relatively constant regardless of which size of apron you order.
|Apron Type||Apron Weight||Attenuating Material|
|Standard Lead (Pb Standard): |
0.35 mm Pb equivalent
0.50 mm Pb equivalent
|9.4 lbs |
|Lightweight Apron (Pb Free): |
0.35 mm Pb equivalent
0.50 mm Pb equivalent
|5.2 lbs |
|36% lighter than lead |
Bismuth, titanium, and other metal alloys
How To Avoid Musculoskeletal Pain from Lead Aprons?
#1. Cut Weight Wherever You Can
An estimated 70% of Americans are overweight, therefore aiming to lose a few pounds will improve the health of most people. Any extra weight translates into an exponentially larger amount of force due to gravity exerted on the load-bearing joints of your body, particularly the knees. You should aim for a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5–24.9.
To calculate this, BMI = (weight in lbs) ÷ (height in inches squared) x 703.
#2. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet will help you in two ways—firstly, it will assist in controlling your weight, and secondly, it can also decrease inflammation of your joints. Try to eat several servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables daily—they contain carotenoids such as beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin that have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods like fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, dairy, and plant oils are rich in Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, which also have proven anti-inflammatory effects.
#3. Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise can help to reduce joint pain by strengthening the muscles, boosting circulation, and improving joint mobility and flexibility. You can start with low-impact exercises that are gentle on the joints, such as walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga. If you suffer from joint pain always consult with your doctor before commencing any exercise regimen.
We’re Here To Serve You
How much does a lead apron weigh you down at work? At Barrier Technologies, your safety is our concern. We strive to ensure that all our x-ray lead aprons, lead-free options, and other apparel are ergonomically designed, supported on your body, and comfortable to wear. Consult with our experts today.