Poor posture causes back and neck pain, but are posture correctors safe ways to straighten your spine and relieve nagging aches? Doctors say yes, posture correctors are safe when used properly and for the correct conditions. Here’s why posture correctors are safe, what you need to know before you use one, and when you should consider alternative posture treatments.
Posture correctors are safe when used properly
“Posture correctors are safe when used for the correct indication, which is not having good posture,” says Dr. Vedant Vaksha, an orthopedic surgeon and Chief of Spine and Sports Services at Complete Orthopedics in Long Island, New York.
Dr. Vaksha says understanding the underlying reasons behind posture problems is key to understanding how posture correctors can help. Screentime is a significant contributor to poor posture and the pain it causes, as most people spend hours each day hunched or slouched over their phones, tablets and laptops. It’s an unhealthy habit that weakens the muscles that provide postural support and hold the body in alignment.
“Posture often goes bad when a person tends to sit with their neck and head bent. With cell phones and everything, it’s become more rampant,” he says. “The muscles in the upper back and neck become weak, so they can’t be used to hold a proper, straight posture.”
Posture correctors work by training you to maintain proper posture, strengthening those muscles and reinforcing healthy postural habits.
“The muscles are the most important pillar for correct posture,” says Dr. Vaksha. “Once there is a postural abnormality in the form of bending, posture correctors are passive instruments that tell you you’re not in the correct posture and guide you through the process of correcting it.”
Rather than forcing you into position like a rigid brace, posture correctors provide support and gently remind you to maintain proper posture through physiological feedback.
Some types of posture correctors provide feedback through vibrating gadgets placed between the shoulder blades. Others – like the BackEmbrace – gently retract shoulders into proper alignment, thereby strengthening postural muscles over time. These types are soft, flexible, comfortable and stylish, and can be safely worn over or under clothing.
That doesn’t mean all posture correctors work, even if they’re safe to wear. It’s best to choose a model that’s designed to fix posture and relieve tension whether you’re sitting, standing or walking. Look for brands endorsed by medical professionals – if a doctor is willing to stake their reputation on it, you can be confident your posture corrector is safe and effective.
Always use posture correctors properly
Posture correctors can be bad for you if used improperly.
“If they’re not used correctly, such as if they’re tightened too much around the shoulders, they can cause blood flow problems into your arms or chest,” says Dr. Vaksha.
The good news is it’s easy to correct improper use – if it’s too tight, simply loosen the straps. It’s also best to consult size guides to ensure a perfect fit, and always follow manufacturer instructions. Some companies, such as BackEmbrace, offer how-to guides and videos that show you how to use a posture corrector for best results.
Note that a posture corrector can cause mild discomfort when you first start wearing it. This is normal as you activate disengaged muscles, but the discomfort should subside within a couple of weeks of use.
In addition, it’s always a good idea to add posture exercises to your daily routine. Posture exercises help strengthen your muscles and work in tandem with your corrector to improve your posture faster.
“Exercise helps in strengthening the muscles,” says Dr. Vaksha. “Back extensions can be done in conjunction with other core-strengthening exercises as well as yoga and Pilates.”
When to consider alternative posture treatments
Posture correctors are effective, but if you’re experiencing severe pain, your spine seems deformed, or if you were injured in an accident, it’s important to seek medical advice before you wear one. A posture corrector is probably still safe, but it might not fix the problem, so a doctor needs to evaluate your condition to make sure you don’t need alternative treatments such as physical therapy or surgery.
For example, posture correctors aren’t intended to treat spine curvature issues caused by osteoporosis, severe scoliosis, herniated disks, degenerative diseases, spinal deformities or infections.
For most people with mild symptoms, posture correctors are good tools that offer benefits such as pain relief, reduced injury risk, slimmer and taller appearance, improved exercise form, increased mobility and energy, and self-confidence. If your symptoms are more severe, it’s best to consult a doctor to ensure you don’t have an injury or condition that requires medical care.