Poor posture causes a host of problems, from back pain and spinal dysfunction to balance issues, headaches and even a pot belly. Posture correctors are marketed as slip-on cures for poor posture, but can a posture corrector really align your spine and alleviate pain? We interviewed doctors and therapists to get the truth behind whether or not posture correctors really work.
- Posture correctors work to align and train your spine
- Good posture offers significant health benefits
- What does "good posture" mean?
- How posture correctors work
- Should you use a posture corrector
- How to get the greatest benefits out of a posture corrector
- How to choose a posture corrector that works for you
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A posture corrector that’s effective will gently pull your shoulders into proper alignment, stabilizing your spine and shoulders to prevent slouching that can cause back and neck pain.
"Posture correctors keep your shoulders back and chest open, counteracting the rounded shoulder look," says Dr. Vishal K. Verma DC, CCSP, a sports and orthopedic chiropractor at Integrated Healthcare Centers in Virginia. "This also helps to keep your head back in neutral, rather than out front."
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Second, and more importantly, posture correctors train you to maintain proper posture – even when you're not wearing them.
"They are effective in giving the brain cues to improve body awareness, also known as proprioception. This can not only help with alertness, but it can also help activate muscles that have become lax or inactive over time," says Dr. Brittany Ferri, an occupational therapist at Medical Solutions in Barcelona. "By activating these muscles in a thoughtful, purposeful way, posture correctors can improve the way a person holds themself, sits and stands."
Dr. Sean Ormond specializes in interventional pain management at Phoenix-based Atlas Pain Specialists. He says poor posture shifts the body's natural balance, which places strain on adjacent muscles and ligaments and causes back, neck and shoulder pain. Those unnatural body adaptations can in turn reduce mobility.
"Posture correctors work to raise awareness of one's current posture as one interacts with the environment," says Ormond. "If you move to a poor posture position, the corrector will make you aware by resisting the movement."
When to wear a posture corrector
Though they're often associated with desk jobs, posture braces can help you maintain proper posture during various activities, including driving, walking, jogging and working out. They can also provide relief from certain medical conditions.
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"Posture correctors work great for those with scoliosis, kyphosis or other spinal-related changes that cause pain and tension. They also work great for those who have weak core muscles and cannot support a good posture while seated," says Dr. Verma.
Posture correctors work when worn correctly
Posture correctors aren't meant to be worn all day. Instead, you wear a posture corrector for a few hours at a time to coax your spine into a healthy alignment. The idea is to activate your muscles and train them to maintain proper posture after taking the corrector off.
"They are a short-term solution to posture problems by aligning the associated muscles and ligaments to the correct position," says Dr. Ormond. "They are meant to train the muscles to maintain a good posture position so that when you remove it, your body will adapt to the changes and strengthen the associated muscles with time."
Read: How to use a posture corrector
It's best to start slow and wear your posture corrector in 20-to-30-minute increments to give your body time to adjust, up to six hours per day, to remind your body what correct posture feels like. The goal is not to become totally reliant on posture correctors, but to train your body to hold proper posture after taking them off.
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Posture correctors work best when coupled with posture correction exercises.
"Posture correctors are very effective when used properly, but can become a detriment if done without proper posture corrective exercises," says Dr. Verma. "Just like any brace, they can weaken your body's muscles if they are overused without doing postural exercises."
- Posture correctors work in two ways: they align and train
- They align your spine and activate postural muscles
- They train your body to recognize and maintain good posture
- Posture correctors should be worn a few hours at a time
- Posture correctors work best when combined with posture corrector exercises
Good posture offers significant health benefits
Poor posture is a literal pain in the neck, but good posture offers significant benefits for your health and quality of life, including:
- Pain relief
- Slimmer and taller appearance
- Increased confidence
- Improved form while exercising
- Reduced risk of injury
- More energy and increased mobility
Proper posture engages and strengthens the correct muscles, reducing strain on muscles that aren't designed for postural support. Good posture also relaxes connective tissue in your back, neck and shoulders that can get tight and sore if you have poor posture.
When your spine is aligned, the benefits of good posture extend beyond your back and neck. Proper posture can alleviate:
- Upper and lower back, shoulder and neck pain, including tech neck caused by long hours of sitting at the computer or browsing on your smartphone
- Tension headaches and TMJ caused by lack of postural support
- Hip, knee and ankle joint pain caused by spinal imbalances
- Heartburn and constipation caused by poor digestion
"Studies show that poor posture is a leading cause of everything from neck and back pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and even high blood pressure and poor digestion," says Dr. Verma. "Good posture leads to improved breathing, reduced pain levels, improved activity levels without injury, and even less acid reflux and other stomach issues."
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One of the greatest dangers of poor posture is that it's cumulative: the longer you have poor posture, the greater the potential for long-term issues. Good posture relieves pain now and helps you avoid chronic pain caused by years of poor posture.
Appear taller and slimmer
Slouching gives you a short, hunched appearance. It can even make it look like you have a pot belly.
Good posture helps you maintain your spine's natural curve. In the cervical (neck) and thoracic (mid-back) regions, a proper spinal curve can help you appear taller. In the lumbar (lower back) region, a proper curve helps give you a flatter stomach.
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Another benefit? When you're standing tall, good posture also lends itself to confidence – an important factor in mental health.
Proper exercise form and reduced injury risk
Good posture helps you maintain proper form during aerobic and anaerobic exercise, whether you're jogging, lifting weights or cross-training. Improved form optimizes muscle strength, decreases fatigue, reduces soreness and helps you reap more benefits from your workouts overall.
Proper posture also reduces your risk of injury. If your spine is in alignment and your muscles are working the way they should, improvements in flexibility, range of motion, strength and physiological control can make you less susceptible to soft tissue injuries caused by poor posture.
More energy and increased mobility
When you practice good posture, you're using muscles designed to position and move your spine – and not muscles that aren't. Poor posture requires more fuel, so good posture reduces fatigue and can boost your energy levels.
Since good posture expands your chest, it can increase lung capacity, which oxygenates your blood and offers an additional energy boost.
In addition, proper posture allows you to achieve a greater range of motion via having a more flexible spine, properly aligned joints and overall body balance. This, in turn, increases your mobility.
What does "good posture" mean?
Good posture means maintaining the natural curves of your spine while at the same time achieving body balance, says Dr. Ormond.
Your spine has three curves, and if any of them are exaggerated, it can result in poor posture. Sitting for extended periods of time in the same position or stressing muscles in unnatural positions can cause your muscles to pull your spine out of alignment, resulting in a host of aches and pains.
- Thoracic Kyphosis (Slouching Forward): This can lead to a condition known as "nerd's neck"
- Swayback (Leaning Back): The upper back is pushed backward, making the tummy protrude
- Lumbar Lordosis (Arching Forward): The middle back is pushed forward, lifting the lower back and buttocks and causing the chest to protrude
- Cervical Lordosis (Forward Head): The neck is craned forward, known as "tech neck"
Practicing good posture helps realign your spine and strengthen the muscles needed to keep it aligned. In general, good posture means:
- Expanded chest
- Shoulders back
- Chin parallel to the floor
- Tucked tummy
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"Imagine a straight line running down the side of your body connecting ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. This is your plumb line, and it helps define ideal posture," says Kristina Borseti, a Certified Pilates Trainer at And Then, Be Well. "Ideal posture keeps us free-flowing in different planes of movement – forward, back, side-to-side. Poor posture takes our spine away from this line."
It's important to maintain good posture both when static, such as when sitting or standing, and dynamic, such as when walking or jogging.
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That said, good posture doesn't mean the same thing for everyone.
"Good posture differs based on the person, since some people cannot achieve the standard 'good' posture [due to physical conditions]. Good posture typically means sitting or standing with your shoulders rolled back, head looking straight forward, neck relaxed and scapulae in neutral," says Dr. Ferri, who adds that "posture correctors can play a vital role in rehabilitation of posture dysfunction."
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How posture correctors work
Posture correctors can work on multiple levels. First, and the most obvious, is they provide support that prevents you from slouching. Second, they offer physiological feedback that reminds you to sit and stand up straight – when you begin to slouch, you should feel the resistance of the brace, so you'll straighten back up.
Back support can offer immediate relief, but it's the physiological feedback that posture correctors can offer that has the most significant long-term advantages. They teach your body what good posture feels like and how to maintain it. The more you're reminded to hold proper posture, the more you'll activate and strengthen your postural muscles until you won't need the brace to remind you.
Posture correctors work by
- Providing support
- Training your postural muscles
- Teaching you to maintain proper posture
Should you use a posture corrector?
You should consider using a posture corrector if you:
- Sit or stand for long hours at work
- Struggle to maintain proper form during exercise
- Have back, neck or shoulder pain
- Have chronic headaches
- Experience digestive issues from poor posture
- Want to strengthen your body and achieve optimal performance
Video: How to put on the Backembrace posture corrector
Nearly everyone can check at least one of those boxes, so most people can benefit from using a posture corrector. However, there are situations when a posture corrector may not be the best option, such as a severe injury or a physical disability that might require a more advanced medical treatment.
In addition, it's crucial to choose a posture corrector designed to address the root cause of your symptoms. For example, a problem in your lower back could ultimately be responsible for your neck pain.
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"Sometimes posture problems like forwarding neck may be caused by other posture problems, such as lumbar lordosis, where someone arches their back forward to push the chest out. The neck alignment will therefore be changed to accommodate this for proper balance," says Dr. Ormond. "In this case, a back brace that also supports the neck will be more effective than a brace meant to correct the forward neck posture."
Consult your doctor if you're unsure whether a posture corrector is suitable for you.
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How to get the greatest benefits from a posture corrector
Follow these tips to get the most out of your posture corrector.
1. Wear it up to 6 hours per day.
Posture correctors provide support, but you don't want to rely on that support full-time. Remember, you're training your body to maintain proper posture on its own, so use your posture corrector as a training tool to help you achieve that goal.
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Don't start at six hours right away. Instead, start by wearing your posture corrector for 20-to-30 minutes at a time to allow your body to adjust. Only increase usage as it becomes more comfortable.
2. Perform posture correction exercises and practice good ergonomics
"Posture correction and improvement exercises should be done in conjunction with wearing correctors," says Dr. Verma. "Postural wall angels or wall slides are the most effective postural exercises for the upper body, helping to activate postural support muscles in the mid to upper back. Spinal bridges help with core and mid to lower back muscles for supporting proper posture as well. Coupled with these exercises, posture correctors are highly effective in helping with poor posture."
Ergonomics can also help you adopt proper posture, says Dr. Ormond, who recommends adjusting computer monitors to eye level and setting car seats in unrestrained positions.
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"Minor shifts throughout the day with ergonomics, (such as) squeezing the shoulder blades a few times every 30 minutes, inhalation/exhalation exercises and incorporating yoga can help improve posture," says Dr. Verda.
Trainer Kristina Borseti offered additional tips:
- Move around: Do a five-minute stretch, go for a walk, or otherwise keep your body moving.
- Prep your tech: Your computer should be eye level, your keyboard should allow for neutral wrists and your knees should be in line with your hips when you sit at your desk. Try not to cross your legs.
- Pillow support: Support your spine with a pillow when you're sitting on the couch watching TV or scrolling through your phone.
- Extension and release: Strengthen your back extensors with yoga positions such as Up Dog and Swan. Use a foam roller to roll out tight hips and your upper back muscles. Use a tennis ball to release tightness in your pectoral muscles and open up the front of your body.
- Core stability: Institute an abdominal workout series that works flexion, extension, rotation, adduction and abduction to stabilize and maintain good posture while you increase spinal flexibility.
3. Use the right posture corrector
All posture correctors aren't created equal. There are many different manufacturers, brands, styles, materials and designs. It's important to invest in a high-quality posture corrector endorsed by doctors and therapists who use it in their own practices. That way, you can trust that your posture corrector will work when you use it correctly.
"There are definitely some posture correctors that work better than others. This is usually because they are made of higher quality materials and have more features," says Reena Singh, a physical therapist at MantraCare. "For example, some posture correctors come with adjustable straps so that you can get a perfect fit. Others have padding or other features that make them more comfortable to wear. If you are looking for a posture corrector that is going to be effective, it is worth paying a little extra for one that is high quality."
How to choose a posture corrector that works for you
Use these tips to choose the best posture corrector for you.
1. Provides support and strengthens your postural muscles
Look for a posture corrector that advertises support and strength, which means it's designed to offer instant relief through support and correct your natural posture over time.
Some posture correctors are bulky and uncomfortable. Some have seams and materials that can irritate your skin. Find a posture corrector that features a soft, lightweight, seamless design for maximum comfort and breathability.
Your posture corrector needs to fit your body, so look for one that comes in multiple sizes and offers adjustable straps to get the perfect fit. Some posture correctors even have adjustable shoulder straps so you can vary the level of support.
Don't want to wear a posture corrector over your nice shirts and blouses? Some posture correctors are designed to be comfortably worn over or under clothing. Again, look for a versatile model that features a sleek, seamless design that adjusts to your body's contours.
5. Easy to put on
You don't want to wrestle with your posture corrector every time you put it on and take it off. Some posture correctors are designed with ease and convenience in mind, using only a single front closure that makes them simple to wear.
If you prefer wearing a posture corrector over your clothing, some posture correctors appeal to your sense of style with attractive patterns that look great in the office and over workout gear.
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Quality is critical for an effective posture corrector, so don't settle for cheaply made overseas versions that will begin to fray and tear after a few weeks. Instead, look for a posture corrector designed and manufactured in the United States.
If you're a frequent flyer, you might want to consider a metal-free posture corrector that will pass through airport security so you can wear it on your flights. Soft posture correctors are easy to pack in suitcases as well.
9. Easy to care for
If your posture corrector is difficult to care for – like if it requires handwashing – that's just one more thing you have to fit into your busy day. Get a posture corrector that's machine washable so you can toss it in the wash with your clothes.
10. Endorsed by medical professionals
Medical doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists put their reputations on the line when endorsing products. When you find a posture corrector endorsed by legitimate, practicing professionals, you can trust that it will work.
Improve your posture with a posture corrector and exercise
Many medical experts agree that posture correctors offer instant pain relief and can train your body to maintain proper posture on its own.
Posture correctors work best when used correctly and combined with postural exercises. Wear a posture corrector for up to six hours per day, and add exercises such as spinal bridges and wall angels to your daily routine.
Carefully compare posture correctors to choose the right fit for your needs, then wear it at work, at home and at play. Before long, you'll enjoy good posture benefits such as pain relief, increased energy and even increased confidence.