Have you heard of these new posture correctors that are on the market? If you are anywhere near main stream media, then you probably have. A cross between a small backpack and a bad BDSM harness, posture correctors are meant to help slouching posture. Blame the sedentary lifestyles that people have started to take on.
Even though they are selling relatively well the question still remains: does this contraption work? Sure, it makes you look better, but does it help in the long run? How long should you wear it if you wear one? And what does it do to your body if you wear it for extended periods of time?
What is a Posture Corrector Meant For
Why Were They Made in the First Place
To say that most people are living sedentary lives is an understatement. People are sitting to go to work where they then their entire work day. Not all, but most. Then people come home from work and mostly sit while they wind down after work. Not to mention that we are also sleeping which is obviously not engaging anything. Our most common forms of pastime in the US is social media, Netflix, Hulu, or other form of sitting entertainment. We don’t know the repercussions of what this type of lifestyle will have on our society as a whole. But one of the biggest things that we are already seeing is the changes in our posture.
This can be seen in the sheer number of people dealing with rounded shoulders and hunched upper backs. Even worse is the back pain, shoulder tension and headaches that can accompany this posture.
Enter the back braces and posture correctors. Ergonomic chairs were helping for a while. But with the increased sitting, people need something more extreme to deal with symptoms.
How to Use Posture Corrector
With all of that said, a wearable was created. The posture corrector is two round straps that cross over like an offset infinite sign. The two loops go around your shoulders and the “x” overlap can be tightened on some models. The concept is to wear this posture corrector under your clothes to bring your shoulders back into “proper alignment”. Essentially, it takes the slouch out of your upper back by force.
Why Posture Correctors Do Not Work Like You Would Think
The simplicity and functionality of this type of posture corrector is genius. There was a gap in the market place and this invention helped patch up the hole. But what about the effects of wearing posture correctors for an extended period of time, as most people do? As is constantly criticized by the turn of technology, people want everything now. The shorter period between getting the product and getting the result the better the reviews will be. Throw away any anticipation of the repercussions, the longer you wear it the better it will be right? Not exactly. There are a few things that we tend to forget, which I will be going over now.
Posture Correctors and the Symptom Mindset
Generally, while it is understood that the body is a unit it is taught in a more compartmentalized way. This is no one’s fault, this is just how we retain information better. But it comes at an interesting cost.
When this information is taken out into the real world there tends to be this idea that if something is “wrong” or “off” or “painful” or “tense” in one area of your body then that is the area we need to work on. This is how the posture corrector was born. Someone said, “Wow, people are slouching a lot. They do not like it, it is unattractive, and there are some pain issues related to this posture. I am going to make something that straightens this part of the body out.” And so, they did.
They followed, what I call, the symptom mindset. They saw the symptom and decided that if they changed the symptom the person would be relieved of the symptom. This is much like our modern surgery techniques, physical therapy sessions, chiropractic adjustment and the like.
The Body is a Unit
The above stated concept is very linear. This is something that I blame on this new need to specialize quickly. In the health and wellness industry it’s considered beneficial to be great at one thing. Because of this, people will delve deeply into one area of the body, working with just that area of expertise. The body does not work like that at all. It would be impossible to know everything about the body. But there is a need to understand the whole system that you are working with in a general way.
For the posture corrector you are working within the musculoskeletal system. The symptom, the rounded shoulders and upper back, is the same place that is being targeted. But here is the thing. The body is used to this position. Meaning that the muscles and the bones are all positioned to hold this shape.
When using the posture corrector, you’re forcing your body to take on a new shape that it’s not ready for. While the posture corrector helps to support your upper back it effects your body as a whole. Your spine is all connected. By changing the upper spine you are forcing the lower spine to change as well, but without support.
This can lead to pain/discomfort all over the body, like lower back pain, hip pain, and even more headaches. Why? Because your body has zero clue what is going on. So, the symptom is seemingly getting better. But this leaves the rest of your body to fend for itself; no support, forewarning or training of any sort.
The Body is Extremely Lazy
While there can be some relief initially from the discomfort or tension when taking the posture corrector off, it is a different story. But why would that be? It is fixing the symptom, right?
Fundamentally, yes. But in actuality, no. Here is something that people tend to forget: the body is one of the laziest machines ever invented. It did that to survive. The reason being that in a full day the body only has so much energy to give with every task so when you give it outside support, like the posture corrector, then it will gladly save that energy and use it later.
So even though a posture corrector helps with the symptom it is in no way training your body to be hold itself in this position. Actually, in the long run, it is making your muscles weaker because they do not have to do their job. Meaning that when the posture corrector comes off, not only will you find yourself back in the same position, but you may even be in worse shape due to your muscles lack of involvement over the past couple of hours that you’ve been wearing the posture corrector.
What About Other Types of Braces
The posture corrector is essentially a brace for your upper back. As anyone who has a “weak joint” or has been through a surgery or sprain knows, there are all sorts of other braces. Unlike the posture corrector, braces used after surgery are meant to keep the joint from moving entirely. This is so that the muscles expend as little energy as possible to prevent more injury and promote quicker healing.
On the other hand, braces for wrists, knees, your back (besides the posture corrector) and the like are there to be used as outside support. Essentially the issue that the joint is going through is an instability. There is a muscle or ligament that is not able to function properly or strong enough to maintain good movement through the joint. The brace helps to create outside support, but you will run into the same issues you did with the posture corrector. Muscles will lose strength and begin to rely on the support of the brace.
In short, if you can, avoid wearing braces and look instead at getting to the root cause of the issue instead of chasing the symptom.
What is the Best Way to Correct Your Posture
If braces do not help as we would like them to, by training our bodies how to hold themselves or be stronger, then what is there? There are still symptoms that we want to address and tension that we would like to release. The simple answer is to start taking an active role in the healing of your body. Things like the posture corrector are passive forms of healing yourself. All you do it put on a contraption and your symptom will take care of itself. But as we have learned this is not the case.
You can reeducate your posture in a number of ways. The first step is to find a good personal trainer, physical therapist, posture therapist, or whatever other method you would like to work with. This person will help you relearn how to move your body using the right muscles and clear up the symptoms associated with an un-aligned posture. The important thing here is that you work with someone who will adapt the movements to your body and abilities and can change the workouts and movements as you progress.
Posture Changes Do Not Take as Long as You Would Think
A good way to note if the therapy you are getting is working is by how quickly your symptoms change. Postural symptoms can be one of two things – physical pain/tension/tightness or postural deviation (like the rounded shoulders that the posture corrector is meant to deal with). Unlike building muscle or losing weight changes to one’s posture does not take as long. It is a rather quick transition. Mostly because if it is between moving the way your body moves and ending up in pain or learning a new way to move and having no pain, your body will always choose no pain.
If you can show your body a way to move that results in no pain it will learn this as quickly as possible. This work that you put in to actively change your posture and the way your body moves will result in a reduction of symptoms, no matter how long you have had them.
While posture correctors might seem like a quick fix to your unattractively slouching upper body, in the long run they will not help. Your body was made to be efficient in the use of energy and posture correctors, and other unnecessary braces, give it an excuse to be lazy. Instead, finding the right therapist who can help you with postural reeducation and adapt as your body adapts is the most effective and efficient way to go.