My posture might use some work, thanks to long hours at the computer, too much time spent slumped over my phone, and a habit of schlepping around New York City with a bag overflowing with goods. Sure, I squeeze in some spinal stretches and workouts a few times a week, but is that enough when the time I spend doing such posture-friendly activities is such a small percentage of my day compared to all the typing and scrolling? I’ve been debating whether or not I should start wearing a posture corrector at my desk during the day.
I’ve seen them all over the place, from Amazon to Instagram. I decided to learn more about these trendy devices and see whether they might actually help me sit up straighter as a cautious but curious health journalist. So I asked physical therapist Theresa Marko, MD, founder of Marko Physical Therapy, if posture correctors actually help or are a waste of time and money.
What is the purpose of a posture corrector?
There are many various types of posture correctors available, but they all work in the same way. The concept is that you put one on—it looks like a soft-shell back brace or harness—and just by wearing it, you’ll sit up straighter, which will protect your posture from deteriorating (easy, right?).
“They can serve as a physical block to slouch,” adds Dr. Marko, who favours the Comfy Brace Posture Corrector ($16) because it has helped some of her patients. “This one keeps your shoulders back and your shoulder blades closer together,” she explains. “It also serves as a gentle reminder to sit up straight when you’re tempted to slouch forward. When you sit up straight, your spine is straight and your shoulder blades are close together.”
Braces are popular posture correctors because of their simple design and low price points, but there are also posture straps like the Back Embrace ($60) and tech-enabled posture gadgets like the Upright Go ($60 and $80), which buzzes to inform you when you’re drooping or rounding your spine. These are more like helpful reminders that “teach” you to sit straight or cease hunching throughout the day, rather than forcing your posture into a specific position.
Whatever alternative you choose, bear in mind that a posture corrector should only be used as a temporary solution. “You don’t want to wear a brace for a lengthy time,” adds dr. Marko. “You want to get stronger so that you can stand on your own two feet.” She advises only using posture correctors for a few hours per day and for no longer than a month.
You slouch in the first place, which is an indication that you may need to concentrate on strengthening those postural muscles (the stabilisers that hold your spine in your deep core and upper back). “Many people have difficulty sitting upright due to a loss of strength,” explains Dr. Marko. Dr. Marko suggests strengthening the shoulders and back using the exercises shown below to improve your posture.
Exercises to strengthen your postural muscles
1. I, Y, T prone
The recommended position is to lie on your stomach, arms extended at the sides, palms facing down. Lift your head, neck, and chest slightly off the floor so that your gaze is fixed a few inches in front of your nose, or rest your forehead on a rolled up towel on the ground, whichever you prefer.
Put your hands a few inches above your head and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a breath, then return to start position. Repeat two sets of ten.
As you are about to do the “T”, extend both arms straight out, palms pointing down at shoulder height. Lift arms up several inches in the air while squeezing shoulder blades together. Return to your starting position after holding for a moment. Then repeat the set two times.
In order to do the “Y”: Put your arms overhead at 45-degree angles so that your body forms a “Y” shape on the floor. You can either place your palms face down or turn your hands so your thumbs face up. Lean forward a few inches. Return to your starting position after holding for a moment. Then repeat the set two times.
2. Row of Resistance Bands
You will need a resistance band and a knot to do this. Put the knot on the other side of the door and shut it with the knot on the other side. At elbow height, place the band on the door. To ensure that the door does not open toward you each time you pull on the band, you need to stand on the side opposite the opening so that you’re not pulling it open every time.
Pull the band toward your chest while squeezing your shoulders together so your elbows end up at 90 degrees. Grasp the band straight and slowly release it. You will need to repeat this twice.
No door as an alternative? I have no problem with that. If you want to stretch the band across your chest, hold it taut at chest height with both arms apart at shoulder level, with your elbows touching. Dr. Marko says these exercises will strengthen your upper back and shoulder blades.
3. Horizontal Abduction of the Resistance Band
Standing erect with a slack resistance band at chest height, arms straight, elbows extended but not locked out, is how to perform it. Pull the band open across your chest by forming a “T” with your arms. Return the band to its starting position slowly. Repeat with two more sets of ten.
“You control how much resistance you have for this manoeuvre,” Dr. Marko explains. “It will be difficult if you hold the band tighter, and easier if you hold the band looser. If you make it too challenging, your neck muscles will become engaged.” Give yourself some leeway if your traps (those muscles that run down the sides of your neck to your shoulders) are tense.
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