Posture Correcting Devices


Figure 1.--This posture correcting device was offered by the Aimedia Company in Japan. Unfortunately we can not yet translate the ad copy. The company seems to be the Japanese equivalent of Ron Popeil's Ronco. Click on the image to see a translation of the Japanese text provided by one of our readers.

Physicians believe that from early childhood steps should be taken to incourage correct posture to prevent adult back problems. We have noted doctors expressing concerns over posture in the 19th century, althjough often without real insights into the underlying medical science. We have noted a variety of posture corrective devices in 19th century publications. As far as we call tell, docvtors in the 19th century perscribing posture correcting devices often did no with only a minimal understanding of the underlying medical science. Some seem rather extreme. Some 19th century doctors and parents were very concerned about posture and willing to take aggressive steps to force children to develop better posture. This continued in a less aggressive manner into the early 20th century. The garter waists and other stocking supporters advertised during the early 20th century often referred to benefits related to posture. Parents today in most cases seem less willing to intervene to improve threir children's posture with the exception of occassional mild oral comments. Here there may be some differences among countries. We note that posture correcting devices are still used in Japan. We note deportment lessons in school which focused on posture. A British reader reports that through the 1940s, and perhaps the 50s at some schools, there used to be deportment lessons in British schools. These lessons were just for the girls. Our Britiish reader reports his mother used to tell him and his brothers about them. Boys since the 19th century have carried book satchels to school. The size, style, and materials have changed over time. Back satchels have nbeen a popular style. The size and weifgt loads of these book satchels have become an increasing subject of concern in recent years, especially for younger children. The concern is the long term impact on posture.

Orthopedic Concerns

As far as we call tell, docvtors in the 19th century perscribing posture correcting devices often did no with only a minimal understanding of the underlying medical science. Although doctors today are less likely to perscribe posture corrective devices for children, there is a much better scientific understanding of the impact of posture on health. Phuscicians today in fact have noted the impact of posture plays on the etiology of certain diseases. Today with peopkle living longer. Chronic back pain and other oorthopedic problems are medical problems of increasiung concern. Often doictors find it very difficult to assess back problems and to perscribe corrective measures in adult pacients. Clearly it is wise for a individual to avoid such problems. Physcicians now advise that it is important for a person to know how to carry oneĎ s body. Phuscicians report that hunvched back and vertebrae contracted together can cause serious back pain. Back pain is not the only problem. Physscians also report problems such as stiffness in the neck, pain in the arm and even headaches. An erect posture can avoid such problems developing in a serious medical condition. Poor posture can put constant strain on the pelvis and lumbar spine. Another problem is that poor posture tends to keep muscles tense which can lead to a variety of problems.

Posture and Age

It is extemely difficult to change the long-engrained posture of an adult. Correcting a child's posture a much easier undertaking than changing an adult's posture. This is even more the case of elderly people who most commonly encounter serious medical problems concerning the back and related orthopedic conditions. Healthy posture habits adopted by a child can benefit him throughout his adult life. One orthopedic group reccomends, "As parents or teachers, we should be conscious of how a child sits and if the posture is incorrect, we should point it out to him and take care to keep on correcting it. It is very important to see how a child sits, reads, writes, walks and plays." Physicians believe that from early childhood steps should be taken to incourage correct posture to prevent adult back problems.

Basic Anatomical Development

Adnormal spinal curves are absent at birth and during the first few weeks of an ne born's life. The Fetus has one continuous curve as the hild is curled up in his mother's womb. This primary curve begins to change as the infant grows, especially as he develops the muscles and muscular control to lift his head up and then sits, crawls, stands, walks and runs. At the age of about 3 months when the infant begins to hold his head up and look around. At this stage, the spine's upper secondary curve (from the first cervical to the first dorsal vertebrae) begins to develop. As a result by 9 months when the infant is able to sit upright, the spinal curve is convex forward. The lower spinal curve (lumbar) from the 1st lumbar to the 5th lumbar vertebrae develops sometime between 12-18 months as a todler begins to walk. The curve tend to be more prominent for girls than for boys. The thoracic curve extending from the 2nd to the 12th thoracic vertebrae is concave forward. The pelvic curve from the lumbosacral joint to the coccyx faces downwards and forwards. The primary thoracic kyphosis (bending forward at the thorax) is present at birth. This continues after birth. The cervical and lumbar lardosis (bending backward at the lower spine) are developed and the musculature becomes stronger as a todler grows. This enables a todler to adopt an erect posture and begin to walk. This in fact mirrors evolutionary development. The lumbar and cervical (neck) curves emerged as prmitive humanoids emerged on to the savanah and adopted an erect posture. These natural spinal curves are important mechanically. The curves are constant even when an individual lies prone. If these curves exceed the normal limits they can cause a range of aches and pains of varying severity. The spinal joints most subject to internal derangement are between the 5th and 6th cervical and 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae. This is the region of the spine in which the cervical and lumbar lardosis is most prominent.

Country Trends

Most of the devices that we have found are American and Canadian. This probably reflects our greater access to American material. We beloeve concerns about posture were also prevalent in other countries like England, France, and Germany. Most of the devices loaded on HBC are American. We also note very similar Canadian stocking supporters which claom posture benefits. A 1901 Eaton's ad is for a "Shoulder Brace and Hose Supporters Combined". The term "shoulder brace" of course stresses the posture correction design of the garment. Another example is the Eaton's 1918 catalog. There were devices for men, women, and children. This Canadian Eaton's page (1918) advertises a "shoulder brace with hose supporters" (this is the boy wearing the shoulder garters in the center). Such posture devices probably existed in Europe as well, but we have no information at this time. We also note the modern Japanese shoulder brace.

Posture Garments

We note devices that were made specifically for posture correction. The Japanese device here is an example of such a device (figure 1). These devices were much more common in the 19th century and early 20th century. We notice them in America and Canada. An example is the Knickerbocker Shoulder Brace, which was advertized in The Youth's Companion (October 25, 1900). The ad illustrates the obsession with keeping children's posture erect. A latter example is the A. Stein Shoulder Brace in 1940. These posture devices probably existed in Europe as well, but we have no information at this time. The desiogn of these devices varied, but the purpose was essentially the same, to promote an erect posture and discourage "rounded shoulders". There were also other garments such as hose supporters that were more commonly worn that puportedly had a positive impact on posture. Some of the ads for these garments included statements saying that they were bebeficial for posture.

Chronology

We have noted doctors expressing concerns over posture in the 19th century, althjough often without real insights into the underlying medical science. We have noted a variety of posture corrective devices in 19th century publications. Some seem rather extreme. Some 19th century doctors and parents were very concerned about posture and willing to take aggressive steps to force children to develop better posture. This continued in a less aggressive manner into the early 20th century. The waists suits worn by children in the ealy 20th century offered referred to benefecial posture. An example of a an ad for these waists that referred to bebeficial impacts on posture is a Wards Fall-Winter 1941-42 catalog. Parents today in most cases seem less willing to intervene to improve threir children's posture with the exception of occassional mild oral comments. A British reader in the late 1960s describes rules at his school forbidding boys from walking about with their hands in their pockets. It was believed to cause the boys to slouch. Here there may be some differences among countries. We note that posture correcting devices are currenhtly used in Japan (figure 1). We are not sure how common they are.

Deportment Lessons

We note deportment lessons in school which focused on posture. A British reader reports that through the 1940s, and perhaps the 50s at some schools, there used to be deportment lessons in British schools. These lessons were just for the girls. Our British reader reports his mother used to tell him and his brothers about them. The girls used to have to practice ballancing a book on their head as they walked, and had to keep working on it until they accomplished this skill. I don't recall comparable lessons in American schools during the 1950s, but I only know about the different schools I attenmded. I'm not sure about earlier years. Nor do we have information on other countries.

Book Satchels

Boys since the 19th century have carried book satchels to school. The size, style, and materials have changed over time. Back satchels have nbeen a popular style. The size and weifgt loads of these book satchels have become an increasing subject of concern in recent years, especially for younger children. The concern is the long term impact on posture.






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Created: 4:58 AM 9/30/2004
Last updated: 3:29 AM 4/3/2007