Why You Don’t Need a Posture Brace

Young Caucasian male in a white shirt sitting in green grass on a gently sloping hillside, looking out at dark blue mountains and pale orange clouds as the sun sets in the distance.

You probably see these type of products everywhere now. People are becoming more aware of the negative effects of sitting, and how slouching is killing us all, and as usual, we’re offered a handy “spot-check” solution.

“You slouch a lot and your shoulders roll forward? Here’s a gadget that will prevent you slouching and your shoulders from rolling forward! Presto!’

But the answer isn’t that easy.

First, we have to become more aware that, often, we seek solutions to help make our sedentary time (which is most of our time now) more comfortable, or help us move less. Cushier couches and beds, ergonomic chairs, mixers (hey, I don’t judge, but keep in mind your great-grandma was able to whip a meringue by hand), automated everything–we applaud new innovations that “save us time and help us be more productive,” without realizing that every day, we’re handing off natural human movements to machines or gadgets.

Second, we have to remember that “the site of pain is rarely the site of dysfunction.” Got a pain in X place? Our first reaction is to medicate, stretch, rest, inject, massage, physical therapy, etc. the X place.

But what if poor X is just the innocent victim of another issue somewhere else? What if the issue in Y is the real problem, and poor X is getting caught in the crossfire, and is screaming out for help, alerting you that something is wrong elsewhere?

Don’t shoot the messenger. Silencing the pain in X will never, ever fix Y, and you will likely see other problems spring up further down the road if Y is never addressed.

So, how does this tie in with the posture brace?

Combining the two topics I just pointed out–that we are moving less by outsourcing more and more movements every day to cushier or handier technologies, and that we can’t spot-check pain issues by only staring at the source of the pain and nothing else–let’s do a little experiment.

If you are able, stand up, though you can do this from a chair. Do a quick check-in: What’s your head position like over your shoulders right now? And where are your shoulders? Rolled forward? How about your low back? Does is have a big arch in it? A little one? None at all?

Now, I want you to dramatically roll your hips forward, which will naturally place a big arch in your low back. What happened to your head position? Does it feel more over your shoulders? And how about those shoulders? Did you find that they naturally rolled back together?View of Caucasian woman from the side, giving an example of extreme lordosis.Next, do the opposite with your hips–roll them backward. You should immediately go into an exaggerated slump, your low back flattening out and having NO curve. What’s up with your head position now? Your shoulders?

 

View of Caucasian woman from the side, giving an example of extreme kyphosis.

Keep that position! Now I want you to pretend you’re wearing a shoulder posture brace. Imagine it pulling your shoulders back, while your hips are rolled backward like this. What kind of strain is that placing on your neck? Your shoulders? Your low back? Do you think you could wear this brace for long, if your body’s current postural alignment was one where your hips were rolled back like this?

View of Caucasian woman from the side, giving an example of extreme lordosis with shoulders pulled back and together.

You’re probably thinking, “But nobody is shaped like this!” Guess again. This body postural condition is very common in the elderly, and I’m seeing it more and more in 20-somethings and below. It’s alarming.

Our bodies do their best to keep us upright, and rolling our shoulders forward is a natural counterweight to a misaligned hip position, or deep internal weakness in our shoulder musculature.

I’m sure someone out there genuinely needs a brace to correct their shoulders rolling forward, but for the general population, a brace that forces us to keep our shoulders back isn’t the answer, it’s fixing our lower body misalignments and reintroducing strength and movement.

 

One Comment on “Why You Don’t Need a Posture Brace

  1. Great article and all very real. My expensive brace disintegrated in the tropical heat after the two hurricanes and I have been brace free since then. The ONLY thing that really works is building the muscles and staying constantly in touch with how your are standing,sitting and moving.

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