Posture Braces: Do They Really Work?
Sit up straight. Stand up. Straighten your shoulders. These are all things that you may have heard as you grew up. This advice comes from parents and relatives, maybe even teachers. People focus on the posture of others for many reasons. One of the most common is to ensure that as people get older, they’re not putting unnecessary stress on their bodies. For some, the advice will help to make them more mindful of the way that they carry themselves. For others, outside support will be necessary to correct posture and eliminate back pain well into the future. This is where devices like posture braces come into play, along with implementing simple, daily changes into their lives. Using a body brace to improve posture is a great idea – but which one should you choose?
What are Posture Braces?
Put simply, this is a device worn in a way that helps correct the wearer’s body alignment. These braces focus on the upper body and shoulders. All back braces are considered posture enhancers. However, it’s important to remember that a posture brace is much different from a back brace. Commonly worn on the mid to lower portion of the back, the purpose of a back brace is simple: provide support and stability. This is helpful and can encourage people to sit and stand up straight and think through their movements. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t do much for decreasing the “hunching” of the shoulders. This decrease is the goal of posture braces, making them a very important tool.
Eliminating the tendency to hunch forward, on the other hand, is the goal of a posture brace. This keeps them from rounding their shoulders and upper back. It is especially important to combat today since so many people work at low desks. This means that they lean forward to use computers and other devices for hours on end.
Why Posture Braces Are Helpful
As discussed above, many people find themselves working in conditions that cause them to put additional strain on areas of the body that they may not consider. Specifically speaking, the shoulders and chest muscles are the first ones impacted by poor posture. The concept behind a corrective device like a posture brace is to retrain the muscles in the body over time. This helps the body adapt to the ‘new’ normal, instead of falling into and remaining in an undesirable routine. Relying on the concept of gradual change over time this is called “tissue adaptation”.
Posture braces come in a few different types, depending on the needs of patients, and the following are examples.
Cross back elastic brace: This type of brace supports the clavicle, chest, and back by pushing the chest forward when worn.
Molded upper back brace: Instead of soft elastic materials, this is made to be more rigid. It may include a metal rod that sits between the shoulder blades. This is a more supportive option, but the different materials make it much bulkier than the elastic brace.
Long line back brace: This is helpful for people with lower back pain coupled with poor posture. It can support your back from shoulder to hip. This brace is typically constructed with a stiff material like plastic in order to provide the most support.
Posture support clothing: Instead of a brace that is worn over or beneath the clothing, some companies have started to design and release actual clothing items like shirts and bras that are meant to help improve posture.
Electronic posture reminder: Designed to help remind people when they are slouching, this is a device that doesn’t provide support. Instead, it’s connected to the body and will “buzz” when it detects that a person is slouching or starting to slouch. This lets them know that they need to alter their position. Often, this is used with an app, allowing you to keep track of your movements and alert history.
What to Consider When Using a Posture Brace
If you think that your posture needs correcting, the first step is to consult with someone knowledgeable to figure out what the underlying issues are. Often, people will notice small things that can lead them to want to make changes. One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that poor posture can cause a lot of symptoms that might not be commonly associated with the condition.
A shortlist includes:
- Knee, hip and foot pain (while playing a sport or participating in a hobby like dancing)
- Shoulder, neck and back pain (either from outright poor posture or another underlying health issue)
- Pain in the jaw
- Breathing problems
If you notice any of these things happening, especially when you’re at work or using a device like a phone or a laptop extensively, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a doctor or a physical therapist (PT). In a lot of cases, a doctor will diagnose you with poor posture that needs correction. Once diagnosed, they will send you straight to a PT professional. Either way, you’ll likely find yourself in a position to improve your posture using tried and true methods for the elimination of back pain and discomfort in other areas of the body.
For many, this type of brace being used isn’t the only thing that needs to be done in order to make changes and improve overall health. The goal is to improve posture so that other improvements can be made, too. This is where following given medical advice comes in. While you may just want to do whatever is necessary to make yourself feel better, overdoing it can be dangerous – and detrimental. As your posture changes, many physical therapists will recommend additional exercises that are designed to strengthen core muscle groups throughout the body, because whole-body health is essential to feeling good each day. These PTs will be able to assess your personal condition and create a plan for you that will do you the most good over the desired period of time. This gives you the best chance for achieving the results you’re hoping for.
Keep These Things in Mind When Using a Posture Brace
Seeing and feeling results can make people feel much better about the changes that they’re trying to make in their lives. There are a lot of things to consider when working with a physical therapist or medical professional in order to implement the use of a posture brace into your day to day routine and eliminate back pain. This is true for people of all ages, even when posture is impacted by typical life experiences. Growing pains are one example of this, as children may not focus on their posture when their bodies are rapidly changing.
You can wear a posture brace often, but don’t overuse it.
Most physical therapists and doctors will recommend that patients start by wearing their device for under 30 minutes per day, and increasing the time spent in it as the days pass. This helps to acclimate your body to the newly adopted posture. It also ensures that you don’t become overly fatigued. As you begin to notice the changes in your body from using the correct brace, you’ll feel more confident, more energetic, and more balanced. Improving balance is a result of improving posture. Don’t overuse the brace in the beginning and don’t allow yourself to gradually fall into a routine. If this happens, these benefits may never be actualized.
Most of these devices are designed to be worn during the daily routine. This means that you can expect to wear your brace often without issue. This includes while you’re working, exercising (especially the soft brace), watching TV, or even just doing housework. The benefits of the posture braces wouldn’t be as meaningful if they couldn’t be used when you need them most. This includes when you’re participating in the activities that contribute to poor posture in the first place. Yes, some of them are bulky and may be able to be seen through clothing. However, a posture brace shouldn’t completely disrupt your life.
The design of a brace will help correct posture in a very specific way. You cannot (and should not) wear them all the time. If you simply wear a device like this one from the time you wake until the time you go to sleep, your body may become dependent on it. This will do more harm than good in the long run. Another stipulation is that most therapists and doctors won’t recommend sleeping in the braces. This is because they can be very uncomfortable, and this can cause additional issues like increased fatigue.
Correcting posture begins with realizing that you need to make a change.
Step one when choosing the best method for correcting posture is searching for a physical therapy professional in your area. Using the Better PT clinic location tool or the BetterPT app will put you in touch with a team that not only can guide your journey to posture correction, but they can implement other exercises into your life, too. Choosing and using a posture brace isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ scenario. Ensure that you start using the correct brace for your needs. This decreases the time it will take for you to begin seeing and feeling results.