Can a Smart Device Shock You Into Good Posture?

June 03, 2019

Can a Smart Device Shock You Into Good Posture?
Bana Jobe

Hunch much? If you're an office worker, you likely spend at least some portion of your day slumped over a screen — whether that screen is in your hand or on your desk. Either way, poor posture can pose big trouble for your health, from back pain problems to digestive issues.

If that sounds like you, take comfort in knowing that there are ample types of posture correctors to help you sit (or stand) up straight.

Do Posture Correctors Work?

Among all the options, from bras and braces to "posture shocker" technologies (sensor-supported devices that vibrate the skin when they detect a noticeable slump), do posture correctors work?

The research is, at best, mixed. Though "posture shirts" like braces have shown some promising results, they've also yielded some less promising data. And when it comes to wearable sensors that purport to buzz you into better posture, there's an entirely different shock factor to consider on top of limited scientific evidence.

Despite the hype from companies that make posture shockers — which often involve a sensor that you place on your clothing or back that vibrates when it gets displaced (presumably by slumping) — it can be hard to say whether or not these devices work because the research is slim pickings.

One study that involved 19 study participants showed that wearable posture sensors were effective for workstation tasks like typing, but more so when the workers were using standing desks. All told, those wearing the device had 8 percent less angular movement (a good thing), and 14 percent less gravitational movement in the neck (also a good thing). Beyond that small-scale study and a few others like it, the science is hard to come by.

But anecdotal evidence has revealed some more finicky quirks of the technology. In one writer's test, the shocker detected normal movements, like standing up or reaching for the coffee mug as slouching when she actually wasn't. That may cause some frustration when you have to readjust the device after a quick restroom trip or a temporary slump to grab a file from the cabinet.

Verdict: Worth a Try, but Explore Other Options

So what's the verdict? Like everything else in life — a posture shocker may be worth a try if you think it might be helpful for you, assuming you can afford the cost, which might set you back anywhere from $80 to $130 or more.

Even if they don't work from a clinical sense, there's still an argument for the placebo effect — and it may help you keep posture more top-of-mind when it otherwise might not be something you think about much, if at all. One study in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, for example, (which studied posture shirts, not the sensors) showed that users felt more pain relief, even if there was no proof that they did.

Beyond that, experts recommend considering tech-free options for better posture, from stretching to easy exercises that can actually help you straighten up (and decompress mentally, too). And don't forget the ergonomic office setup!

After all, Dr. Seuss once said, "un-slumping yourself is not easily done." But between high-tech sensors and good old-fashioned conditioning movements — plus all the other methods in between — that's not wholly true. Sure, it can be a challenge to remember to sit up straight, but it's one that's entirely in your power to solve.

Whether you shock yourself into better posture or simply put a sticky note on the screen that says "Sit up straight," the end goal matters most: working toward a straighter, happier and more productive you.

Sign Up to Receive Our Newsletter & Get the Best Ergonomic Tips