Updated: Apr 8
Let’s talk ‘tech neck’ guys. Or if you want to get fancy with it you can call it ‘cervical kyphosis’ also known as that bend to the neck you get when you’re staring at your phone, tablet or computer. Despite the funny name, tech neck is no joke and places added pressure on the muscles in the head, neck and shoulders. This added pressure can create strains, pain, stiffness, headaches, pain, structural problems and did I mention pain?
As someone who is perpetually on the phone or computer, I suffer from the symptoms of tech neck but I can’t help it, I'm just posturely challenged! And posture is incredibly important for the structural integrity of your spine. To put it simply, bad posture = pain. You might not be able to change the amount of time you spend on your phone for work but is there a way to change your posture?
As you guys know I’m always searching for something new to help make my life just a little bit less stressful and pain free. While browsing online recently I found something labeled as a “posture corrector” on Amazon, I was instantly intrigued. This was advertised as a tool that’s supposed to correct bad posture and touted benefits such as pain relief, a realigned spine, minimized stress and is supposed to reduce hunching/slouching. It honestly ticked off every box of what I was experiencing. So I figured I really don’t have much to lose by buying this and trying it out. What could go wrong?
My Experience with a Posture Corrector
Two days after ordering (thanks Amazon Prime!) my posture corrector arrived and to be honest I was a little intimidated. The first thing to note is that this item is not pretty, it’s not really meant to be, but it essentially looks like a harness. A small harness and I am not a small girl! So I was initially worried that this item would not fit me out of the box despite assuring it fit “most people”. I like to think I have the body type of “most people” and I do, despite needing help to get into the product the first time.
The way this product works is you put the apparatus on your back, loop the straps around your arms and pull until it fits snugly around your shoulders to pull yourself upright. I found that pulling them tightly down and then securing the Velcro gave me the tightest fit. I wore this the first time over clothes and didn’t experience any initial discomfort and forgot I was wearing it. Looking in the mirror I did feel there was a clear improvement in my posture and stance, my shoulders were straighter and I did feel taller. I will forewarn everyone: this thing is a bit finicky to get off. I have to completely loosen the straps to the loosest setting and then shimmy around to get it off both shoulders. After the first day I felt fine but didn’t notice a marked improvement in my typical shoulder or back pain.
Wearing it to work
This was the real test: would I be able to wear this at work and experience any benefits? I initially wanted to wear the posture corrector over my clothes as I had the first time but I decided it looked silly and bunched my clothes up in weird places. Keep in mind this thing loops under your arms so you have to wear something fitted if you don’t want your shirts to sit weird. Because of this I wore the posture corrector under my clothes and off I went to work.
I tested the corrector in three areas - wearability, as advertised and pain-relief.
Wearability (Six out of ten)
At first I didn’t notice I was wearing the corrector but then, around the first hour or two, I really started to notice. And not in a good way. It was fitted pretty snuggly under my arms and (while not limiting my mobility in any way) it did feel uncomfortable. Under my arms, particularly in the crease between my armpit and bicep, felt chaffed. Not only that, the top of the neck part rubbed against my neck when I was looking down to type. I know this is probably by design so you keep your head level with your shoulders but it was an unexpected annoyance that came with wearing the posture corrector. Other than in these two places the corrector was incredibly comfortable, didn’t feel heavy at all and I only had to adjust the Velcro once.
As Advertised (Five out of ten)
When I say ‘improvement’ I’m talking about a few things, in my case it means did my posture improve, did my spinal alignment improve, did my stress levels improve and was I slouching less?
In the posture portion my overall posture felt like it improved as far as I wasn’t as hunched over my desk. I was sitting straighter and further back from my screens and I was remembering to stretch more often.
As far as the claims that the posture corrector would realign my spine, absolutely not. I don’t think this posture corrector is at all magically correcting my spinal alignment by just wearing it. I do think I made a more conscious effort to sit straighter because I was wearing it but that’s about it. When considering my stress levels, I did enjoy having the added support from the posture corrector but having it be mildly uncomfortable added slightly to my stress levels. This wasn’t necessarily when I was wearing it over my clothes but under my clothes. I had a significantly different wearability experience when wearing the posture corrector over my clothes at home but because I bought this strictly for work it brought the score down quite a bit. The one great thing is that I was slouching less! I was sitting straighter! It really did help to remind me to sit up straighter while wearing it.
Pain Relief (Six out of ten)
The posture corrector did help slightly with pain. Having it around my shoulders helped to remind me to not only sit up straight but also to stretch more often throughout the day than I feel I normally would. After work on the first day my lower back pain felt slightly improved and my neck pain was better. My shoulder pain did not improve at all though and that was a huge motivator for buying this product which made it slightly disappointing.
I don’t hate posture correctors, I think they can serve a great purpose in helping people to improve their posture. Pro tip, only wear this over your clothes it is so much more comfortable. But what do experts think about posture correctors?
What do the experts say?
While I would love a quick fix to my hunchback problem it turns out slouching is an incredibly complex problem. Posture correctors are basically a cheap, minimally effective way to treat the underlying causes of back and shoulder pain. So, how do they help?
Some of the pros for posture correctors:
They’re pretty cheap compared to other kinds of pain relief strategies like chiropractors or alternative treatments.
They’re pretty safe in comparison to taking medication for pain relief, you can’t get addicted to a posture corrector (I think?).
Most importantly they remind you to sit up straighter just by wearing them.
The cons for posture correctors:
They aren’t a permanent solution.
You can’t wear them for more than a few hours, according to experts, and you can’t sleep in them.
They might weaken your muscles and cause more damage than they can help.
While experts think posture correctors can help aid in the immobilization of certain muscles in the short term, they aren’t a permanent fix. So what are we supposed to do about our tech-neck pain if posture correctors aren’t the answer?
There are a few strategies for solving tech-neck according to experts. Exercise is an easy way to ease the symptoms of tech neck. Stretching the neck and shoulders is important for maintaining blood-flow and circulation. Try doing little stretches at your deck multiple times a day, like reaching for the stars or doing circles with your head. One way to make your office a little more tech-neck friendly is to have a chair with a headrest. By making sure the back of your head is level with the headrest you can keep your chin parallel with the floor and reduce the bend that causes tech neck. If you can’t get a chair with a headrest raise your laptop up to eye level or invest in a standing desk to help both your neck and your lower back.
While I wish there was an easy fix for tech-neck pain, there’s only so much you can do. But if you feel a posture corrector might help you in the short term, go for it! Just remember there’s also better, longer-lasting solutions to tech-neck and neck pain in general.
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Chandler, M. (2021, February 9). Do Posture Correctors Work? Here’s What Our Experts Think. Ergonomics Health Association. https://ergonomicshealth.com/do-posture-correctors-work/#md-navigation-section-2
Greenhalgh, T. (2020, January 6). How to Prevent Tech Neck in 8 Steps. Rheumatology Advisor. https://www.rheumatologyadvisor.com/home/topics/pain-management/how-to-prevent-tech-neck-in-8-steps/
Sterling M, de Zoete RMJ, Coppieters I, Farrell SF. (2019). Best Evidence Rehabilitation for Chronic Pain Part 4: Neck Pain. J Clin Med. 8(8):1219. doi: 10.3390/jcm8081219.