Are Posture Correctors Effective?
Want to look thinner, younger and more attractive? All you need to do, ads proclaim, is wear a $39.95 shoulder-strapping gadget called PostureNOW for 10 to 30 minutes per day. PostureNOW is just one of many "posture correctors" on the market, ready to tackle the epidemic of slouching brought on by many of us spending most of our days hunched over cell phones, tablets or laptops. Also available: posture-corrector bras, braces, shirts and even digital sensors—all aimed at getting us to straighten up already. But do they work? And why bother?
Correct posture can improve your physical and mental health.
Having good posture is important, say experts. Standing properly relieves pressure on your spine, neck and shoulders and reduces neck and back pain—a big problem in America, with about a quarter of us reporting having back pain for at least one day in a three-month period. Many also suffer "text neck," caused by spending prolonged periods of time with our heads (average weight: 11 pounds) tilted down, staring at screens.
In addition to better mood, good posture's benefits include:
- Avoiding irreversible damage to your spine
- Reducing your risk of osteoarthritis
- Improving flexibility and joint movement
- Decreasing your risk of falls by improving your balance
- Helping you breathe easier by giving your lungs more room to expand
Do posture correctors work?
While having good posture is a great goal, most posture correctors don't help you achieve it. In fact, some of these devices can do more harm than good. That’s because your body begins to rely on the devices to hold you up, especially if you wear them for long periods of time. This can cause the core muscles you'd normally use for better posture to relax and weaken.
A Scandinavian research review in 2019 examined six studies claiming to show wearable shirt-type posture correctors worked. The review found that most studies were poorly designed and, due to funding by device manufacturers, were potentially biased. The review authors concluded there was no credible evidence that this type of posture corrector worked.
Another type of posture corrector uses a different method entirely, which some users have said works for them. The Upright Go device involves sticking a keyfob-sized sensor to your back or wearing it as a necklace. The sensor works with a smartphone app to detect when you slouch, and will gently vibrate to remind you to change position. Downside: the price (about $85, plus extra costs for the optional necklace chain).
One benefit all these devices have is increasing your awareness of your posture and whether you need to fix it. But, experts say the best way to improve your posture is through core-strengthening exercises, such as yoga, and by working to stand and sit correctly in your daily life.
Some simple tips to follow:
- When sitting, keep your chin parallel to the floor, with your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.
- If you work at a desk, consult with your employer or view online advice for setting up a posture-friendly and ergonomic workspace. Also, be sure to get up and stretch frequently; many experts advise moving around once per hour.
- When standing, keep your shoulders down and back, your spine neutral (no flexing or arching), hips even and knees pointed forward, tighten your abdominal muscles, and distribute your weight evenly on both feet; your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
If you continue to have trouble with poor posture, consult with your physician to determine if you have a contributing disorder, such as scoliosis (spinal curvature). You also may need to work with a physical therapist to find an exercise regimen that can help you achieve correct posture—without the use of gimmicky gadgets.