Okay, admit it: you’re stuck at a desk most of the day, or you’ve hunched DM’s memes over your phone to your buddies. When you’re home for the night, you’ve got a lot of intense pain in your back, arms, and neck. Your posture could probably use some work, let’s be real.
There is such a thing as “bad” posture and slouching or bending your spine in strange ways all the time can hurt you physically and psychologically, says Dave Smith, a postural alignment specialist and consultant for the San Francisco 49ers, many NCAA players, and the U.S. Women’s Tennis Association. Bad posture can make your muscles imbalanced, weak, or too tight which can lead to pain, degenerative joints and discs, injuries.
So, how are you going to teach yourself to sit down and stand with a good posture? Your first reaction may be to try one of those posture-correcting tools you’ve seen promoted around social media. But do the posture corrections really work?
Here, we break down the features of the most common devices on the market, and what experts really think of each of them.
Cross-back elastic brace
Such posture corrections are simple and easy to use — not to mention, easy to find. You may be able to get one from your Physical Therapist’s office, or you may be able to check Amazon for options (like the one on the right!).
Just slip it over your shoulders and wrap it around your upper back. It almost looks like you’re wearing a back bra. It is a positive thing, because this tool helps to mitigate the weight effect of your breasts pushing your chest and your front side forward, Smith says.
Out of all physical posture support devices, this one offers the lightest support, but is also the most secure and least visible under clothing.
Electronic Posture Reminder
If all you need is a gentle reminder to warn you when you’re slouching, you can try one of your wearable apps. They either bind to the front of your bra or stick to the skin on your upper back and vibrate when your posture begins to slip. Some of them do come with a phone app so you can monitor your stats over time.
Keep in mind that these are more costly than normal braces and require charging or batteries, but they are invisible under clothing. If you like the idea of getting a posture reminder during the day, but you don’t want to spend the money, you can set up a watch to warn you at defined intervals.
Molded upper back brace
A molded brace appears to provide more flexible, firmer support and a good reminder to draw your shoulder blades back to combat your propensity to hunch over your screen or phone, Smith says.
Is that the issue? The bulkier style of this brace ensures that it can be seen through clothes. But if you don’t want to wear physical braces 24/7 anyway (because your muscles could get too used to them and get weaker), you might wear this around the house for shorter periods and take it off when you’re wearing something more comfortable in public.
Longline back brace
If your posture is severely out of balance or you have chronic low back pain, you may prefer a longline brace that provides support from the base of your neck to the top of your hip, says Dr. Anand.
You slip this one over your shoulders and then tie a wide piece of elastic around your lower back and stomach. One thing to note: it provides very firm support across your back, but it can be very noticeable through clothing, similar to the above alternative.