As I`ve said in one of my previous posts, good posture can really change your life!
One of the major problem of our generation, the generation that came before us and generations that are yet to come is back pain. Back pain is one of the most common health concerns today and it is estimated that it affects 8 in every 10 adult individuals! And one of the leading causes of back pain is poor posture.
The main goal of this article is to shed some light on this matter – explain why we engage in poor posture when we know its bad for us, talk about different types of poor posture and how we can fight it using exercises and posture corrective braces.
Neutral Spinal Alignment – Proper Posture
You will often hear people talk about the “neutral position/neutral alignment” of the spine, what is that exactly? Healthy spine has three natural curves:
- Cervical – which curves inward
- Thoracic – which curves outward and
- Lumbar – which also curves inward
These curves are maintained with powerful back muscles and good posture. Good posture will ensure that the load on the structures of your back is minimal and that the spine is stabilized during your regular daily activities. Poor posture may disrupt the balance between the structures of your back, resulting in abnormal curvatures of the spine and back pain.
How To Assume Proper Posture?
You can not use exercises and posture braces to correct your posture if you don`t know how to assume proper posture in the first place! Good news is that you can do this easily in just a few minutes.
You will need a large mirror or, if you don`t have a mirror, you can find someone to help you. Face your mirror sideways and try to align your ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line.
As for the proper sitting posture, it`s a bit more complicated to explain this is why I am including this graphic below, from Houstonx.gov:
Types Of Poor Posture
When talking about poor posture types, we can basically single out the two most common types of poor posture:
- Forward head posture and
- Anterior pelvic tilt
Forward Head Posture
Forward head posture is one of the most common deficient posture today… chances are you assumed this very posture while reading this article. Correct it! 🙂
This posture occurs when the center of your ear is in front of the center of your shoulder. It may not sound like a big deal, but it can throw the entire body off balance and distort our center of gravity. Other body parts start to compensate and, as the head goes forward, the upper body moves backward and the hip tilts forward.
This alters your spine biomechanics, puts added strain on the muscles and ligaments and cause pain. Spotting this posture and correcting it in time should be one of your major concerns. (source: fremontcountywy.org)
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Anterior pelvic tilt is relatively common in people who sit for long periods of time.
As we already mentioned, lumbar curve is slightly curved inward, but in anterior pelvic tilt, this curve is more prominent. The easiest way to spot is to stand with your back against the wall and see how much space is there between the wall and your lumbar spine (one hand is fine, anything above may indicate a problem).
This type of posture will often cause lower back pain, especially in older age.
What Is A Posture Corrective Brace And Why Do We Need It?
A posture corrective brace is just that, a brace designed to help you correct your posture. It will constrain your back and shoulder and “force” you into a proper posture.
Now, there are people who say that posture brace is a good alternative to exercising as it will strengthen your muscles but I find that to be unlikely. Last time I checked, constraining your muscles will not increase their strength or promote muscle growth.
Promises like these is what, I think, is obscuring the true purpose and goal of wearing a posture brace in the first place. I see it only as a tool that will help you turn your negative habit (of slouching and poor posture) into a positive one (of proper posture).
People this that wearing a back posture brace an hour or two a day will take care of all their problems and negate years (in some cases even decades) of practicing poor posture. Hate to be the bearer of bad news people, but it won`t! Improving your posture is a gradual process, and you need to be ready for a lot more than just going out, buying a $20 back brace from Amazon and thinking your spine will magically spring back into place. It takes time and effort.
Please don`t get me wrong, I am not here to bash corrective braces, just people`s mindsets. Posture braces are a great tool to help “remind” and “force” you into correct posture without you thinking about it. If used properly, they will serve as a constant reminder that your posture is poor and you need to fix it.
Slowly, over time, you will find yourself assuming proper position more often and finally (hopefully), proper posture will become something natural to you and you will no longer need this brace.
There is, of course, the other side of the coin – people with thoracic injuries, fractures or arthritis who simply need to use devices like these to help them secure the damaged structures in their back.
How To Find The Best Posture Corrective Brace?
If you take a look at the posture corrective brace market, you will see a lot of disappointment. People are disappointed for the very reason I mentioned above, they expect that a brace will take care of all their problems without their active participation. But, I`m gonna be honest here and say that if you don`t plan on actively working on improving your posture by making use of posture brace, posture exercises, poor posture prevention and posture awareness, you won`t be successful in your battle against poor posture.
I know that this is not something you wanted to hear and that a lot of you will leave this page, but that is the truth. You can`t expect good results if you are not willing to put in the effort.
And, with that said, it is time to review some posture corrective braces!
Finding The Best Corrective Posture Brace – Reviews
Finally, we are going to review and recommend some of the best braces money can buy!
BraceAbility Clavicle Brace And Posture Support Strap
This is one of the best back braces I can recommend for correcting your posture. I see a lot of people complaining about braces that come with no instructions and are hard to use, BraceAbility is everything but hard to use.
You just put it on and use hook and loop fasteners to adjust it to your requirements. Another thing I like about this product are the large, thick pads (though they may seem bulky to some) which offer good support and comfort. It is also latex free, good news for those of you allergic to this stuff.
As you can see on the image, straps loop around your shoulders and cross at the back, “forcing” you into proper posture and preventing slouching. Due to its heavy padding, it is also recommended for minor clavicle fractures.
All in all, this is one cheap but solid posture brace meant for both men and women. There are 5 different sizes available (you should measure your chest, just below your sternum):
- XS – 20″ – 24″ (50.8 – 61 cm)
- S – 24″ – 30″ (61 – 76 cm)
- M – 30″ – 36″ (76 – 91.5 cm)
- L – 36″ – 42″ (91.5 – 107 cm)
- XL – 42″ – 48″ (107 – 122 cm)
2 in 1 Posture Brace
2 in 1 posture correcting brace is a rather nifty little item, which you can wear discretely under your clothes, since it does not feature bulky pads like the BraceAbility. But, the downside of this design is that it can be a bit uncomfortable to wear.
Some users complain that it is “not the most comfortable thing to wear.” Most people who complain about this wear in under their clothes; but you can just as easily put it over your clothes and you will see that you can wear it with relative comfort for hours.
It is easy to put on and there are “2 settings” you can choose from: you can either put over the shoulders or just below the shoulders, so it goes around your arms.
As for the sizes, there are two different measurements for men and women (men measure their chest while women measure their bust):
- XS – for men its 29-31″ (73.5-79cm), its the same for the ladies
- S – for men its 32-35″ (81-89cm) and for the ladies its 32-34″ (81-86cm)
- M – for men 36-39″ (91-99cm), for women 34-36″ (86-91cm)
- L – for men 40-43″ (101.5-109cm), for women 36-38″ (91-96.5cm)
- XL – for men 44-48″ (111.5-122cm), for women 39-42″ (99-106.5cm)
Lumbar Back Brace
Many people think about lumbar support only when lifting a heavy load or after they sustain a debilitating injury, but a good lumbar back brace can do so much more – promote good posture and give good support when sitting for longer periods of time, protects your back when driving and generally keeps them safe and prevent future injuries.
When buying this brace, you should pay attention to the sizes, it comes in two:
- Regular – for people with waist sizes between 28-50″ (71-127cm) and
- Larger – fits people with waist sizes between 50-70″ (127-178cm)
This brace features a removable pad, located low on the belt itself. You can pull it out, but I would advise leaving it in since it will provide extra support and cushioning for your back. You can also wear it when working out since it is made up of breathable fabric.
Men`s Posturecue Tank
Makers of this tank say that it was designed to mimic functional taping techniques. Taping techniques include adhesive tape and are used to prevent injuries, manage injuries in rehabilitation process, keep the structures in place and provide proper support. So this is a big claim from the manufacturers, but they do to live up to it.
This product includes newly-designed sport panels for improved breathability, spinal posture, scapular support and comfort. It is also equipped with SPF protection!
There are 7 different sizes to choose from, so it shouldn`t be hard to find one that fits you perfectly.
Posturecue Sports Bra
Posturecue bra is one of the first ever bras designed to provide full front and back support. In addition to providing support, it will align your spine and shoulders and promote good posture.
Now, I am not a woman so I can`t gauge its effectiveness or tell you how it feels 🙂 , so I will leave it up to you to try it and, hopefully, come back and share your experience with us!
Posture Correcting Exercises
As I`ve already said before, posture brace is just one piece of the puzzle… besides, it is not advised to wear it the whole day since it may weaken your back muscles; so the ideal situation is to combine wearing the brace with regular, daily exercising.
So what are some of the best exercises which will help you combat poor posture? Here are some of the I picked for you (NOTE: if you experience pain during any of these exercises, stop immediately):
- Hands Behind Your Back – this is a relatively simple exercise. You need to stand up straight, clasp your hands behind your back and slowly rise them up, while pushing your chest forward. Raise your arms to as high as you feel comfortable and hold for up to 15 seconds. Repeat up to 10 times per day.
- Crunches – I`m sure you must be wondering what crunches have to do with your back, but doing crunches will strengthen your core and improve the stability of your back.
- Prone cobra – I mentioned this exercise in one of out previous articles. It is really easy and effective. You will need to lay down on the floor on your stomach, then raise your legs, your arms and your chin up off the floor. Hold for a few seconds and release, repeat 10-15 times.
- Floor stretch – lay down on the floor on your back, flex your legs in knees and hips (so that your feet are flat on the floor), rest your arms at your side. Then push your shoulders into the floor and try to lift your head off the ground. Hold this position for up to 5 seconds and repeat for 5-10 times.
- Floor ankle reach – sit on the floor and extend your legs. Now, try to reach your ankles and pull your chest towards them. This exercise is challenging and you might not be able to reach your ankles, but reach as far as you can. Hold the position for around 10 seconds and repeat 5 times.
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