Do Posture Correctors Actually Work? A Surgeon and Physical Therapist Weigh In

Fitness

Closeup shot of an unrecognisable businesswoman experiencing back pain while working in an office

After seeing a few posts about posture correctors on social media, I quickly turned my attention to my own posture. In that moment, slouched over my phone and mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, my posture was anything but correct. I kept my shoulders rounded and my head tipped forward, letting my lower back deal with the consequences. Thinking back to the posture correctors on my explore page, I wondered if the answer to fixing my posture was really as simple as a $30 Amazon purchase. Either way, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether these posture correctors actually worked to reduce back pain and improve posture for people like me.

To provide some posture-correcting answers, we spoke to an orthopedic spine surgeon and physical therapist, asking whether or not posture correctors are as useful as they’re made out to be.

“Posture correctors may be helpful for those that are experiencing back discomfort or pain,” says Sports & Orthopedic Physical Therapist Dr. Winnie Yu, PT, DPT, CSCS. “Although posture correctors will not resolve your injury, they can help to offload certain areas of the spine that are weaker or less stable during activities that may otherwise be uncomfortable.”

If you’re also looking to lessen your discomfort in the short-term, the experts shared what you need to know in order to use posture correctors effectively, as well as their recommendations for reliable posture correctors and their general tips for better posture too. Read on for all the posture-improving details.

Why Should You Be Concerned About Posture?

According to the experts, posture is something that should be taken seriously. “Poor posture causes a domino effect, with the weakest area of the body being affected negatively,” said board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon Rahul Shah, MD. “For example, if your neck is weaker than your back and you have poor posture, your neck could be used to compensate for your back and can lead you to have issues with your neck.”

Back pain is also a common concern for people with poor posture, for two different reasons. “Poor posture and back pain are associated – some people have back pain, and then their posture gets worse and more pain ensues. Others put their backs in poor posture, causing pain. In most cases, poor posture and back pain go hand in hand,” Dr. Shah says. According to Harvard Medical School, slouching can lead to headaches and breathing difficulties — and even constipation and other digestive issues. To avoid unnecessary problems like these, maintaining a neutral, upright spine is essential.

What Are Posture Correctors Good For?

Although neither expert POPSUGAR spoke to would recommend posture correctors as a long-term fix, they can be used to temporarily reduce discomfort. “Wearing a posture corrector during the work day can help assist your body to stay in a more upright position; certain Bluetooth posture correctors can also provide kinesthetic feedback to your back muscles to activate and bring your body back up to a more upright position when you begin to slouch,” Dr. Yu says. “Other types of posture correctors can be worn around the lumbar or lower spine to provide additional stability during tasks that require heavier lifting or longer hours of sitting.” She notes that, while no one posture is technically “good” or “bad,” hunching forward or spending too many hours in a rounded position can cause stiffness or tightness in the neck, mid back, or lower back. This is commonly seen in people who spend eight hours a day (or more) sitting at a desk.

What Can’t Posture Correctors Do?

While posture correctors have their uses, it’s also possible for them to be overused. Dr. Shah notes that if worn for too long, posture correctors could potentially start to cause some issues. “Specifically, these braces — when used in everyday healthy folks — will remove some of the essential stimulus muscles needed to keep the head and torso in a good position,” he explains. “While the use of these braces in the short-term can help someone feel better with temporary improvement of posture, in the long-term, the muscles will become dependent on the brace and thus will [become] weaker.” Dr. Yu recommends trying out a new posture correctors for one to two hours, then assessing how your body tolerates the assistance.

Building off of Dr. Shah’s posture correcting concerns, Dr. Yu advises people to supplement posture correctors with spinal mobility and stability work. “For example, although use of a posture corrector can help to offload your mid or lower back during prolonged sitting at the desk throughout the work day, it will not necessarily fix any mobility restrictions or soft tissue restrictions that may be present along the spine or trunk musculature,” Dr. Yu explains. “If you use postural correctors consistently, you also run the risk of weakening the postural muscles over time as your body begins to rely on external assistance for maintenance of proper posture.” It’s always best to check in with your healthcare provider about specific medical advice and recommendations, posture correctors included.

Do Posture Correctors Work?

In essence, posture correctors work to provide temporary pain relief, but they are not a solution to the symptoms of poor posture (including back pain). That said, they can still help reduce discomfort and encourage you to be more mindful about your posture (especially designs that require you to self-correct). “Having a good understanding that the posture correctors offer temporary relief for your symptoms is important,” Dr. Yu says. “If you choose to use a posture corrector, adding mobility and stability work with proper guidance from a physical therapist will give you the best relief from your symptoms and overall improvements in your spine health.”

How to Choose a Posture Corrector

If you’re looking for the best posture corrector, Dr. Yu has a few recommendations. No matter which one you choose, she suggests taking measurements of your chest and abdomen for the best fit, focusing on the level of support, and selecting a comfortable material. “You want the material to be breathable and comfortable without scratching or chafing at the chest, arm or back areas while wearing it,” Dr. Yu says. “Taking measurements in advance will ensure that the posture corrector will fit comfortably without constricting your chest or abdominal expansion during breathing.”

  • Amazon Upper Back Brace Posture Corrector ($8, Previously $40) “This one is a good option because it is breathable, uses a minimalist design so it doesn’t feel too bulky for prolonged usage, is easy to use, and offers only thoracic (mid back) correction so it still requires you to self correct lumbar posture,” Dr. Yu says.
  • Amazon Lumbar Support Posture Corrector ($35) “This one offers more support and coverage and is good for someone that has a greater degree of a rounded spine and needs more support,” Dr. Yu says. She notes that wearers should be mindful not to strap the corrector too tightly around their waist. “Too snug of a support around the abdomen can end up restricting breathing and potentially cause issues of dizziness, shortness of breath or other breathing complications.”
  • Amazon Upright GO 2 Premium Posture Corrector ($60, Previously $80) Dr. Yu says this option is great for anyone who wants their posture corrector to be virtually undetectable. “This Bluetooth monitored postural connector gives you vibratory feedback when your posture is ‘off’ without the cumbersome straps and braces of the other design,” she says. “This can be good for those that want reminders to maintain good posture and want to naturally strengthen their postural muscles without relying on a traditional corrective brace.” Just know that for long-term use, you will have to purchase additional adhesives for the monitor separately.

Tips For Improving Posture

To support your journey in building better posture, Dr. Shah shares some of his best tips. “Because everyone is different, things like stretching or general aerobics allow your muscles to find a harmonious sweet spot to hold themselves up,” he said. “With your muscles in harmony with your spine, your posture will be optimized.” When standing, try concentrating on looking straight ahead comfortably with your head held over your pelvis and not stooped forward. “The more upright you are able to stand, with all things being equal, the more likely you will keep your muscles from fatiguing,” Dr. Shah explains.

Another tip to prevent this kind of muscle fatigue is to avoid sitting or standing in any one position for extended periods of time. “This will lead you to fatigue your muscles and make you more prone to both poor posture and injury,” Dr. Shah says. Instead, work on straightening out your hips to prevent your lower back from straying from its natural position and causing strain.

Additional reporting by Chandler Plante

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