If you have spent any time searching for ways to improve your posture online, you have almost certainly come across a number of posture braces that claim to be able to help solve your bad posture. In today’s culture, people are always looking for the newest and easiest way to fix our problems. But do these devices really work? In this blog post, I’ll discuss if these braces can help correct your posture, and if not, what you can do to help improve posture.
Do Posture Braces Work?
When it comes to posture braces, most products claim to improve posture by pulling your shoulders back. Although forward rounding shoulders are indeed a sign of bad posture, they are not the only contributing factor. Poor posture usually consists of a combination of factors including forward head carriage, rounded shoulders and pelvic tilting. A posture brace usually only affects the shoulders, only one component of bad posture.
One of the most common conditions associated with poor posture is Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS). If you are unfamiliar with UCS you can learn more in our prior blog post that can be found here. In general, UCS consists of a forward head carriage and rounded shoulders. As a result, people who suffer from UCS generally have tight muscles in the chest and front of the neck and weak muscles in the back of the neck and upper back. While a posture brace, may help bring your shoulders back, is it correcting the underlying causes of UCS and bad posture? Unfortunately, no.
While a posture brace may help bring your shoulders back, it doesn’t strengthen the muscles in the back of the neck or upper back. So, while it may help while it is on, when you take it off, your shoulders will likely go right back to their earlier rounded state. And although the posture brace may help stretch out the muscles of your chest, it doesn’t help stretch the muscles located in the front of the neck that are usually associated with poor posture. For this reason, a posture brace will not help correct anterior head carriage, or any pelvic tilt that may be present.
So, What Actually Improves Posture?
Just like a posture brace will not solve all of your posture problems, there is not one single thing that you can do that will fix your posture. But, there are a number of things that can, when done together, give you proper posture.
First you must stretch the tight muscles that are located in the front of the neck, the scalenes, and chest. To stretch the scalenes, reach across your body and grasp your collarbone (use your right hand to hold the left collar bone). Next, pull down gently on the collar bone and then lean your neck back and to the opposite side (lean back and to the right if holding the left collar bone). Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat this stretch throughout the day. Do NOT stretch your neck by leaning your head forward! In most people with bad posture these muscles are already overstretched. Stretching this way will only make your posture worse!
To stretch the muscles in your chest, you will need a doorway. Lift one arm and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Now, place your arm against the wall and gently lean forward. If you are stretching the right chest muscles, it is helpful to have the left foot in front as you lean forward. Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side. A video demonstrating this stretch can be found on our website,here, towards the bottom of the page.
Stretching Isn’t Enough
However, in order to really improve your posture, you will need to do more than just stretch. As I mentioned earlier, poor posture is usually a combination of tight anterior, or front, muscles and weak posterior, or back muscles. So to correct posture, we will also need to strengthen the posterior muscles in the neck and back.
This is where posture exercises are extremely important. The sitting routine exercises that are on our website are a great place to start to help strengthen these muscles.
How Can Chiropractic Help My Posture?
As we have already discussed, bad posture leads to tight and weak muscles. This can lead to misalignments of the spine since many of the postural muscles attach at the spine. You can stretch and do posture exercises all day, however this will never will properly align a spine that is out of its proper alignment. The only way to properly align the spine is through chiropractic care.
When a chiropractor makes an adjustment, they are returning the spine into its correct alignment. As a result, muscles are able to naturally relax since they are no longer being pulled by a misaligned vertebrae. Therefore, chiropractic care can help improve your posture, by returning muscles to their relaxed state.
Pelvic tilt is often an overlooked part of poor posture. Your pelvis is similar to the foundation on a house, if it is tilted out of its normal alignment, it can lead to misalignments throughout the spine. The pelvis is often the first place a chiropractor will look to correct when evaluating your spine. A properly aligned spine is crucial for good posture.
However, since poor posture is the result of tight and weak muscles, strengthening exercises are extremely important to make sure that your spine stays in the proper position. You can get adjusted every day, but if your muscles are not strong enough to hold the vertebrae in its proper position, your spine will continue to shift out of alignment. So, just like a posture brace alone will not improve your posture, neither will chiropractic care. Your chiropractor can’t make all of the changes of their own, they also need your help.
Really making an improvement in your posture takes work. There is not a single product you can buy, doctor you can see, or exercise that you can do that will give you good posture. However, by stretching the anterior neck and chest muscles, strengthening the posterior neck and upper back muscles, and getting adjusted on a regular basis, you can make a lasting positive change in your posture.