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The surgeons at Texas Back Institute are some of the most skilled specialists in the world. They employ cutting-edge procedures and medical devices to treat back problems caused by disease and injury. However, they also pursue non-invasive techniques and procedures which are intuitive, elegantly simple and don’t involve surgery.

“Stand up straight,” is an admonishment which youngsters of every generation have heard countless times from their mothers and fathers. As it turns out, mother was right. This gentle reminder for better posture can be powerful medicine for treating back pain and Dr. Michael Hisey was interested in learning how this “reminder” encouraging better posture might translate into less back pain and wear and tear on the spinal column.

The Test

Dr. Hisey’s experiment began with a brief article in the Wall Street Journal. The July 21, 2014, issue of this newspaper featured an article entitled: Can a Shirt Help Improve Your Posture?

The founder and president of AlignMed, a company which makes the leading posture shirt, Bill Schultz, was quoted in the WSJ article.

“Posture shirts use elastic bands to press gently on upper back and shoulder muscles, giving them a ‘mini-massage’ and helping to activate the muscles and prompt you to sit up straighter, says Bill Schultz, president and founder of AlignMed Inc., of Santa Ana, Calif. The shirts, including a lightweight model for $95 and a heavier one for $195, with adjustable straps that help pull the shoulders back firmly, also provide support for the core and upper back,” he adds.

When it was suggested to Dr. Hisey to put this posture shirt to the test, he immediately agreed to wear it for about a month, test its claims and report his unbiased results. He suggested enlisting another person who had complained of back pain to also test the effects of the AlignMed posture shirt.

Kevin Prejean, a partner and creative director at a Lafayette, Louisiana ad agency also agreed to try out the posture shirt for a month and see if it helped him alleviate his back pain. Kevin’s pain was likely caused by his constant hunching over his computer while designing ads and collateral for clients.

“Before experimenting with wearing the AlignMed posture shirt, I avoided all information about the product,” Dr. Hisey said recently. “I didn’t search their terms on Google and didn’t visit their website. I wanted to see if the product had merit without any preconceptions about its efficacy,” he noted.

The Results

Kevin Prejean and Dr. Hisey experienced similar results and these suggest benefits for back pain sufferers from wearing the posture shirt. Before sharing the results, it’s interesting to get more insights about the workings of the posture shirt from the CEO of AlignMed.

According to Bill Schultz, the posture shirt does three things. “First, the bands, which we call ‘neuro bands,’ will support your structure; your muscles and joints. Number two, they activate muscles. Muscles are filled with nerves which cause the muscles to contract. The posture shirt activates those nerves. Finally, it provides a bio-feedback. It makes you think about where your neck, shoulders, spine and hips are,” he said.

After wearing the posture shirt for about a month, Prejean said, “It made me more conscious of sitting up straighter while I was working at the computer. The tension from the bands was a constant reminder and I found myself having better posture while I was working. I was definitely more aware of my upper body and abs,” he said.

“The shirt reminded me of my military days,” he laughed. “While I was wearing the shirt, I was standing at attention.”

Did the posture shirt improve Prejean’s back pain?

“I didn’t notice dramatic changes,” he said. “However, I think I need to wear it longer to determine whether it works or not. I’ve had back pain for a long time and the periodic wearing of the shirt for one month is not enough time to determine its effect. I plan on continuing to wear the shirt.”

Dr. Hisey approached this experiment differently from Kevin. “I wanted to see if the shirt changed the way I worked out,” he said. “I do CrossFit in the morning and play soccer at night and in both cases wearing the shirt reminded me to maintain better posture. It did not limit my motion at all. It was like having a trainer watching your workout, reminding you to ‘keep upright’,” he said.

“I found the elastic bands, which are sewn into the shirt, worked well to encourage specific muscles to contract,” he said. “And I can see how, over time, these muscles would be strengthened resulting in support for better posture. For me, this posture shirt did exactly what I hoped it would do and I can see some patients benefiting from wearing it.”

One group of Texas Back Institute patients has discovered the posture shirt: professional athletes. These men and women whose livelihood depends on physical conditioning are using the shirt for training and on game day.

“We have more than 1,000 professional athletes, including more than 400 Major League Baseball players, more than 200 NFL athletes and star players in the NBA, who wear it,” Schultz said. “Some guys wear the shirt during the game and some wear for their practice work to work on their form.”

Whether one is an athlete, graphic artist or just someone with poor posture, correcting this situation can possibly help alleviate back pain. If you have back pain, it might be due  to poor posture or something more serious. To talk to a back specialist, just click here.

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