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Clothing That Improves Posture and Eases Shoulder, Neck and Back Pain

Why some doctors, elite athletes wear these shirts

Correcting problems with posture

Alignmed’s posture shirt is one of several lines of therapeutic clothing on the market now — shirts, bras, tank tops and tights designed to improve posture, relieve joint pain and even relieve orthopedic problems like rotator cuff injuries. Tim Brown of Newport Beach, Calif., a chiropractor and former medical director for professional volleyball and surfing organizations, has developed a line of IntelliSkin shirts, which also employ elastic bands to gently pull shoulders and back into a more natural posture. Brian McKeon, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder repair at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, has taken a different tack. His Posture-Tek shirt, marketed by Perseus Athletics in Boston, contains an electronic sensor that detects when wearers begin to slouch and then vibrates, reminding them to stand up straighter. By providing “instant biofeedback,” he says, the shirt retrains the wearer to adopt a healthier posture.

clothing gear to ease shoulder pain and neck pain

IntelliSkin shirt. — Courtesy of Intelliskin

Most garments cost around $100. Many come in a variety of styles and colors. They can be worn as T-shirts, under other clothing or on their own.

All of these products are being promoted as a way not only to improve posture but also to help with many ills associated with poor posture, from rotator cuff pain to neck pain. “Poor posture doesn’t just affect your shoulders or back,” says Benjamin Rubin, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Orange County, Calif., who serves as medical director for IntelliSkin. “It affects breathing, digestion, circulation. Constipation, neck and shoulder pain, breathing problems are all linked to poor posture.”

The principle behind therapeutic posture shirts may sound simple. But proponents claim that wearing these garments can make lasting improvements in the alignment of muscle and bone and even change how the brain controls movement in the upper body.

“We see lots of people who suffer from shoulder problems related to an imbalance in the 18 muscles that control the shoulder blade, or scapula,” says orthopedic surgeon Craig Morgan, M.D., codirector of the Morgan Kalman Clinic in Delaware and a clinical professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who consulted with Alignmed in the development of the posture shirt. “Overhead athletes like pitchers, volleyball players, tennis players and swimmers are especially prone to asymmetric scapula syndrome. But it’s also something we see in people who are sedentary or who sit in front of computer screens for a large percentage of the day.”

Over time, sensory receptors under the skin, which tell the brain how bones and muscles are positioned, may get out of whack. “Even though you think you’re sitting or standing up straight, you’re not,” says Morgan. By correcting posture, he contends, the Alignmed shirt retrains the brain to position the bones and muscles of the shoulders and back in a way that allows them to move more efficiently.

Next: Posture shirt eases pain in some athletes. »

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