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Posture Correctors/Braces – Do they Work?

As part of the Movement Project, we are going to be doing reviews of products related to health. In this article, we will be discussing posture braces/correctors and whether they offer any benefit.

You have probably seen these products online. At the same time,  patients had asked my opinion on them and whether they should buy them. There must have been a marketing push, like a lot of these products.

The premise of these posture correctors is to try and support and push your body into its natural position. It straps around the arms, which you can tighten, pulling you back up to where you should be.

When looking for these products we typed in “posture corrector” online, we got products on Amazon coming up first. We looked at the different top products and then purchased the one with the most reviews. This was the Modetro Sports Posture Corrector Spinal Support (not the most catching of names). This product has over 2200 reviews! With an average rating of 4½ stars. We will go over some of these reviews later in the video.

The Research

While waiting for the product to arrive. We tried to find studies related to this product to see if we have any objective information on whether these things work.

As we expected, the research was pretty thin. We did find an American study that looked at thirty-eight healthy athletes, who did overhead sports, such as swimming, baseball, volleyball. They found that the “use of a scapular brace might improve shoulder posture and muscle activity in overhead athletes with poor posture”. The problem with this study is that it looked at an extremely small and particular demographic. They also describe their results as ‘highly variable’, so we cannot draw any conclusion either way.

So we looked at other areas of the body were bracing had been used. This was to see if bracing offers any benefit for different areas of the body. The first thing that came to mind was the lower back braces or lumbar belts. After digging around, there did not seem much in favour of these belts. Either as a preventer of back pain or to increase muscle activation after using them. Muscle activation is essential, as this is how our body will maintain good posture. So muscle activation is a good thing.

Bring our attention higher into the neck. We all probably remember neck collars. They seemed to be popular back in the 80s and 90s. There was a plethora of research in this area, perhaps due to whiplash claims. I considered studies looking at soft collars only, instead of the fixed ones used in spinal fractures. These seemed to be not helpful in any way. Either in muscle activation or range of motion. One study found after using soft collars in healthy individuals; there was a maximum of a 39% decrease in all ROM.

Another study compared the use of soft collars vs exercises rehabilitation after whiplash injuries. They found no difference in recovery rates in the group using the collar compared with no intervention. Exercise rehabilitation showed the best results – the study stated “exercise therapy is superior to the collar therapy in reducing pain intensity and disability for whiplash injury.”’

Overall, we can’t say whether we objectively know if these posture correctors work, in preventing pain or improving posture. Although, when looking at other areas of the body when some type of brace or support is used. It doesn’t seem to give any benefit. In some cases, it can actually cause problems.

I did find a paragraph on www.perfectposture.co.uk; this website sells a lot of these types of products. It stated “Putting the posture braces for 30 mins a day will apply a little tension to your muscles, and this helps in improving your muscle memory and your structure to the right posture. You could see good results within two weeks. Apart from that, your neck and shoulder pain gets decreased by 75%”.  This sounds brilliant. We have emailed asking them the source of this information, as there weren’t any links. I haven’t heard anything yet; we will let you know if they email us back.

As we mentioned before, what about all these reviews. They can’t all be incorrect; some people are finding them useful. We scoured through the reviews to see what people were saying.

“Improvement in our posture and back pain within the first day of wearing them”.

We would say you can’t measure the success over a single day for this product.

Another one stated –

“Make sure to only wear for short periods initially, because I have a pain in my neck after a few days. I hope this is a good sign”.

This is a 5-star review. I saw this comment a few times when scrolling through the different comments, and this makes sense when you think of it. You can hike your spine and shoulders back when sitting, but you can still have poor posture.  Your neck might be wrenching forward to accommodate. The spine is a combination of many joints and likes to move together. Typically it not a good idea to immobilise just one part of the spine, as other areas may have to work harder. We see this all the time when an area of someone’s back goes into spasm. Other areas of the back have to compensate, causing pain in those areas as well. This could be causing various issues with this person’s neck. Our advice to the person who posted that review would be to take it off. At least until you have seen your GP or your physio/Osteopath.

We have tried to think if there could be any benefits to using these.

Possibly as a demonstration tool, so you can feel what proper posture should be like. We could see a use for this in the clinic with patients. Although, the solution is still not going to be to wear this and think job done. We would then discuss postural advice and strengthening exercises to keep that posture.

One other possible use is when you’re in very acute pain. This may aid your muscles and give them some support. This might still might be a bit of a stretch (no pun intended), most of the time, we would recommend this person just to try and keep active where possible.

Some of these posture correctors come with posture guides, we got one with this product and it was pretty good. This is what we would want our patients to focus on.

Final Thoughts

We will try to make an analogy that thinking about this support. Hopefully, it works. If you could imagine an astronaut that had been up in space for months. When they get back to earth, they require extensive rehab to get back their original muscle strength. They can no longer stand up and hold their posture, even for a short period. If you remember the movie Gravity, there’s the final scene where Sandra Bullock is crawling and struggling to stand due to being so weak. This was due to being in space for so long. I feel like this is somewhat similar to the effect that this posture corrector is having. It is trying to take the weight off your muscles. Which sounds good, but we have evolved to fight against gravity. Unless you want to wear this forever, it is not helping your muscles get stronger.

Also, consider that many upper back postural problems can be due to other causes. The most common example is your pelvic position. The key is to get moving and get your muscles working. That is the only way to improve your posture; there are no shortcuts. Go and see someone if you are not sure how best to do this. Especially since we understand this can be hard if you have injuries or particular conditions. Most of the time, there is a way around it.  So to make sure your daily commute doesn’t end up like Sandra Bullock dragging herself up that beach, get moving and active so your muscles become stronger so you can cope with any daily activities with ease.

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