I used to have great posture. People would compliment me on it. In the latter half of my teenage years, positioning myself straight and tall with pulled back shoulders helped me look older, professional and confident. Now at 32 years old my posture is dreadful. Pain from chronic illness causes me to slump forward. In turn, the slumping weakens my neck and shoulders muscles and worsens the original pain. It’s one of those vicious destructive cycles that’s hard to break out of – not unlike caffeine dependence or violence in the Middle East. Or the quantity of treats I give my cat.
After reading my Everyday Health article on Dry Needling , a company called AlignMed was kind enough to send me a complimentary set of a few of their products: their Posture Shirt, AlignMe Active Sports Bra, and their SpinalQ (a customizable vest). AlignMed is a California based company that creates functional apparel designed to help treat a variety of spine/shoulder/neck conditions including, but not limited to: sciatica, lumbar pain, chronic headaches and rotator cuff injuries. See a more comprehensive list at the end of this article. You can read all about the medical science behind their various products here. Out of my generous box of freebies, I found that my most favorite and helpful garment was the SpinalQ. Here I am practicing to be a mannequin. Look at that great posture! AlignMed hasn’t formally asked me to be their supermodel yet but I’m confident that letter’s in the mail.
I’ve got a backup plan should the modeling gig fall through though: A badass member of the Hawaii Five-O team.
The Spinal Q I’m modeling above is known as a “functional bracing system.” It’s basically a vest. After zipping it up, you first adjust the “lumbar belt,” a stretchy belt that you velcro as snug as is comfortable. This stabilizes your core, provides lumbar support and “optimizes pelvic alignment.” Essentially it helps support your core so you sit up straight. Next you adjust the “scapular retractor straps” – two thinner velcro belts that start in the back of the vest and come up over your shoulders where they come to attach with velcro at the top of the rib cage. These cue you to hold your shoulders back and not slump forward. Again, here’s yours truly, this time with a bite-sized video demonstration.
If the video is not appearing above, here’s a direct link to it on YouTube.
AlignMed recommends you start out wearing the vest 1-2 hours/day and gradually increase as tolerated. Wearing mine has helped lessen my pain especially during the following: typing, car rides, exercise bike rides and housework – all activities where I tend to slip into slumpy bad posture or clench my shoulders up towards my ears.
7/8/15 Update: On these hot summer days I’ve started wearing my AlignMed Sports Bra instead of the whole Spinal Q vest when I exercise on the stationary bicycle in my living room and I must say it’s been working well for me. Either my core is actually stronger or my body is just better trained now – I can wear just the sports bra and still maintain posture that doesn’t result in immediate shoulder muscle spasms. And did I mention the bra zips up in the front? AMAZING feature, easy and painless to take on and off. I’ve still been wearing my full SpinalQ vest when I do my bookkeeping job though – office work just begs one to slump over, (physically AND psychologically, wouldn’t you say?) so the vest keeps me upright and leaves me in less pain than a slumped over workday.
Overall my ongoing trial with AlignMed has been a positive experience. Just one or two critical/cautionary things to say: There was a strong new car/burnt plastic smell that lingered for a few weeks. It was by no means unbearable and didn’t keep me from using it, but I can picture the odor-sensitive among us complaining about it. Yesterday I washed mine for the first time (using cold water/delicate cycle/air dry) and doing that straightaway would probably have gotten rid of the plastic smell right off the bat. A second point to mention – having Fibromyalgia, I do have days where I just can’t bear any extra or snug layers of clothing. Obviously these days are not the right times to wear AlignMed’s gear. However, I do believe that breaking the cycle of poor posture might just reduce the frequency and intensity of my sensitive-to-touch days so I am sticking with it!
AlignMed’s products start at $85.00 (one of the sports bras) and range to $195.00 The price of my beloved AlignPro is not listed, which hints at the out-of-pocket cost being way out of my price range – although it should be noted that the cost can be covered by many insurance companies (including Medicare for those on disability!) If you have spine/pain/shoulder issues such as these below, I urge you to reach out to AlignMed and see how their products might help you.
Thanks to Don Klosterman at AlignMed for reaching out and enabling me to sample AlignMed’s ingenious treatment approach.