Review: Strapping up for less pain with Better Back gizmo

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The author strapped into a Better Back harness at his desk(Credit: Diane Curry)

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We review a lot of high-tech gadgets here on Gizmag. But sometimes, the best solution to a problem doesn't require Bluetooth, batteries or bytes but rather, plain old physics. That's the case with the Better Back harness, a simple strap-based contraption that promises better posture and less lower back pain. We tried out Better Back for a few weeks to see if it makes good on its promises.

First, a look at how it works.

The Better Back system comes in its own zip-up pouch that measures about 10 x 9 inches (about 25 x 23 cm). It's also fairly thick at about 2.5 inches (about 6 cm). So, it would take up quite a bit of room in a briefcase or a purse, but it's certainly not too unwieldy. Once unzipped, the case itself becomes a padded back support and two attached nylon straps loop around your knees. The straps each have knee pads that slide into the best position to cushion your kneecaps or shins.

After the loops are in place and the pad is positioned where you need it, you tug on the sides of the straps to cinch the whole thing up. Then, if you like, you can clip the straps on each leg together which puts you into even better alignment.

While that might all sound complicated, I was all strapped up in about five minutes of unzipping the device — without needing to look at instructions.

When I first pulled those straps, I had a reaction very similar to the people in the promo videos on Better Back's site. "Oh!" I thought. "This really works."

When you pull those straps, your knees become anchors for the device and the pad gets pulled forward. The effect is like having a giant hand press into your lower back to get you to sit up straight. As someone who spends way too much time slouching in front of a computer screen, having such an immediate and easy way to correct my posture was wonderful.

I also tend to sit all twisted up like a pretzel — not with both feet on the floor like every infographic about proper desk mechanics shows you. The Better Back harness fixed that too. Once I clipped the straps together, my legs came into parallel alignment and there really was no other way to sit but with my feet flat.

In a few days, I started to crave using the harness. The low back support really feels that good.

The Better Back company says you should use the harness for about 15 minutes per day and you will eventually improve your overall posture. I'm not quite sure that's true, as I definitely found myself assuming my neanderthal slump when not in the harness but, at least while using it, it made me look like I had grown up in a family that slapped you on the back of the head if you weren't sitting up straight. It also didn't really provide lasting pain relief. While I definitely noticed my low back pain fading while wearing it, the next day, the pain returned like a superhero in a Marvel film. Still, any relief is welcome relief for this desk jockey.

The one complaint I have with the device is that it did eventually start hurting my knees. I liked the pressure on my low back so much that I may just have had it cinched too tight. I asked company founder Katherine Krug about that and she suggested moving the straps below my knees on to my shins. That helped a bit, but I found that the angle wasn't as good. So I will be sticking to using my knees and just getting in and out of the harness throughout the day when they start to get a bit sore. The knee discomfort always faded as soon as I took off the harness.

Considering what contour chairs that offer lumbar support cost these days, it should be noted that the Better Back device is a pretty good bargain at just US$60. The company started with a super-successful Kickstarter campaign last year that saw it raising nearly $1.2 million, and Krug was just on the American TV show, Shark Tank where she secured $750,000 in additional funding. So clearly I'm not the only one who needed the relief Better Back provides. If you experience the same, let us know in the comments below.

Product site: Better Back


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