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We all want the perfect posture. It would be great to have a posture aid that once-and-for-all corrects our posture so that we achieve perfect postural alignment. Does such a posture aid exist? A Physical Therapist in Toronto recently contacted me and asked for posture aid recommendations for one her senior clients.
Can you recommend a weighted vest or posture aids for shoulders (specifically to assist with shoulder retraction and prevention of increasing kyphosis) for a 80 year old female author who spends significant time on the computer?
Her workstation is appropriately arranged and she does take frequent short stretching breaks but she is very aware of her posture and wants to maintain it. Look forward to hearing from you.
— WB, Toronto, Ontario
Natural Aids to Improve Posture
I am generally not a big fan of a posture aid or a brace for posture correction. My preference is to educate people to achieve perfect posture or to work with them directly on posture alignment therapy through Physical Therapy postural restoration.
You should look at your client’s tissues. She may be tight in the muscles and fascia. This could lead to forward rounding of her shoulder blades and cause her to be weak in the muscles that help her to sit tall and keep her shoulder blades back. Incorporate stretches and strengthening exercises that address your client’s needs. Each of these techniques are the keys to perfect posture.
Posture Exercises and Stretch Breaks
Not all stretch breaks are equally as helpful. Reverse shoulder shrugs should be encouraged over forward shoulder shrugs to help reposition the shoulder blades and open up the chest.
In my yoga class, I encourage reverse shoulder shrugs as a warm up. I add a chest lift as you shrug and bring your arms away from your sides. Open your arms and hands as you squeeze your shoulder blades back. Repeat as often as you need.
Another one of a number of exercises to improve posture for seniors (as well as everyone!) is the reverse fly exercise. In the blog, I demonstrate how to do this exercise as well as a modification for people unable to do the standard version.
Workstation Posture Adjustments
Glad to read that you have ensured her workstation is well adjusted. I have gone into too many workplaces after an ergonomic evaluation and still had to make many workstation posture adjustments.
I worked for over five years in industry evaluating workstations and found three common problems that affected employees’ posture. For readers who may not be as familiar with these problems, I have listed them off with solutions for each:
Computer monitor distance is too far and height is too low
Your monitor should be positioned to allow you to hold your head tall over your shoulders. The screen should be roughly 18-inches from your eyes with the top 1/3 of the screen being situated at a 15-degree angle from the horizon. Ensure that if you wear glasses, you get a pair dedicated for computer usage. Laptop users should consider hooking up to a monitor.
Angle of the seat pan is flat or back
One feature in a good work chair is that you can achieve a forward tilt of the seat pan itself. This allows you to come forward from your pelvis rather than your spine or shoulder blades or head and neck.
If you are at home or cannot afford an adjustable chair, you can either sit on a folded blanket with the blanket being placed just under your “sit bones” to create a forward tilt of your pelvis. Wedges or inflatable discs also create a similar tilt. They are not as comfortable but, on the positive side, it encourage users to get up more often. Individuals with weak postural muscles that need to rely on back support will need a support in their low back (lumbar spine) to help them maintain alignment through the rest of their spine.
Mouse and keyboard position
In order to minimize stress on the upper back and neck and avoid the forward rounding of the shoulder blades, the mouse and keyboard should be positioned such that your elbows are by your side and angled between 80 and 110 degrees (close to a right angle). This will also ensure that your wrists are in a fairly neutral position.
Posture Aid Options
If you and your client decide to go the route of a brace or a posture aid, I have included a few that I have tried.
Generally, unless your dealing with a healing fracture or a pain issue, the brace should only be used for a few minutes per day.
The aim of the brace or posture aid is to help you retrain your muscles and not take over for them. For example, findings from studies of black lifting belts showed that over time the belts actually weakened muscles and put the users at a bigger risk for injury and poor posture.
1. Posture Medic Posture Aid
I consider the Posture Medic posture aid to be an overpriced exercise band and not a good choice as a posture aid. I mention it because it is now found in Staples, Shoppers’ Drug Mart and other major retail outlets. Many feel the price is right but as the saying goes “you get what you pay for”.
In order to evaluate this product, I purchased one several years ago when they first came on the market (and sized according to recommendation on their charts). Despite being small breasted and relatively lean it pinched the tissue around my chest and made any activity uncomfortable.
The only client I had who liked this posture aid was tall and very thin. The padding over the rubber bands is not particularly comfortable and there is too much compression in the armpit region.
2. The Lumo Back Posture Aid
I have had mixed success with the Lumo Back posture aid. It seems to work best for individuals who slouch from their lumbar spine first.
They also offer another posture aid product — the Lumo Lift. I have tried that too and have not found it to be very useful.
3. Stillness Buddy Posture Aid
If your patient gets lost in her work and needs a reminder to stretch and move around, I would recommend the Stillness Buddy. The app was developed to help us become aware of the present and take the time to enjoy that moment.
4. Weighted Kypho Orthosis Posture Aid
Lastly, if your client does not sit back in her chair then a weighted kypho-orthosis might do the trick. This device is discussed in my Working with Osteoporosis and Osteopenia continuing education course.
It has been used in studies looking to correct very stooped postures. It is generally worn while up and walking around, it does help to counter act the forward weight of the head and shoulders by providing a counter weight of 0.25 – 2 pounds just below the shoulder blades. In studies it was only worn for two 30-minute intervals per day.
If you want to read more on this topic, read my blog Orthotic Back Brace • Postural Kyphosis Brace.
The Downton Abbey Posture Aid
When it comes to posture, small changes throughout the day can lead to big gains. Be consistent.
Think of the characters in the popular television series Downton Abbey. When the characters are sitting and standing throughout the day, note how they maintain postural alignment. If you can get a butler and maids to do all the heavy lifting, you will be all set!
Posture Aid Suggestions
If there are posture aids you would like me to review, please leave a comment below. Thanks.