I’ve spent the last decade trying practically everything I can to fix my chronic neck pain. Chiropractor visits, acupuncture stabbings, daily yoga, massages and — thanks to my sister — I even have one of those weird acupressure mats.
But I say almost because I do one thing very wrong. I’m a professional writer and spend the majority of my day staring at my computer and phone way too much. I don’t use a stand-up desk, and any chance I get, I slouch.
I’m probably the best candidate for posture-correcting tech wearables, but I’ll admit I was more than skeptical when I stared at the Upright box that arrived at my door. I didn’t see how this little UFO-looking thing could finally get me to sit up straight and, even more immediately, how it would actually stick to my back long enough to do it. But I downloaded the app on my phone, and within a few minutes of simple instructions, I had my account set up and was ready to start my rehabilitation.
When I dug into my Upright kit and found the Velcro strips and alcohol wipes, I started feeling like I’d opened up a physical therapist’s office on my desk, and that actually made me start taking it a bit more seriously. I followed the directions on how to properly adhere it to my spine and stuck it on. I held my breath, waiting for it to fall off with the slightest movement, but it was surprisingly secure.
It calibrated my straight versus slouched positions and started my five minute training. After about three though, I felt a little vibration from it and noticed the red sad face light up on my phone screen. I straightened myself out of my creeping-turtle stance and it stopped buzzing. The green happy face lit up again, and I managed not to disappoint the faces the rest of the time.
Muscle response: I didn’t feel any soreness or strain, and didn’t really expect to — still skeptical.
I live in Cambodia, and we’re experiencing the hottest temperatures in decades, so it took some major cooling off and standing in front of a fan to get the adhesive to stick. Once I got it situated, I did the second day of five-minute training without even really thinking about it. Again, the heat was really stealing my attention.
Muscle response: I noticed just a slight amount of soreness in my upper back from the first day, which I didn’t know if I should be proud… or ashamed of.
The training gradually increases every couple of days, so I jumped to a 10-minute session this morning. I was nervous. As someone who is pretty physically fit, I was surprised to start struggling around seven minutes. I couldn’t get it to stop buzzing at me, which really disrupted my focus. I had to stop my work and recalibrate to adjust for my tired back. The other downside was that I began dreading taking it off, because that adhesive doesn’t mess around — ouch!
Muscle response: My upper back and shoulder blades were screaming by the end, but I noticed something else. My neck and jaw didn’t hurt as much as they usually do. I also started noticing a need to stand upright throughout the rest of my day, which made me aware of how much I slouch, even when I’m not on the computer.
This was the turning point day for me. I attached my little buddy to my back and did the entire 10 minutes like it wasn’t a thing. I got a few red frowny faces with the buzz, but I tweaked my posture slightly and continued working. I realized that all the massages in the world weren’t going to fix my neck problems, because I lacked the upper back strength to keep it aligned. I was also amazed that it only took four days to make me a believer, but I definitely was.
Muscle response: My neck and shoulder muscles really started to loosen up. I noticed a huge difference in not just my level of comfort with sitting, but also standing and walking. Even my yoga practice started showing results, with more neck mobility and upper body strength.
I started my last day of this experiment already knowing I’d continue the entire 21-day Upright training period. The change I felt in the 15-minute session this day compared to Monday’s definitely forced me to put my skepticism away. I felt my thighs, lower abs and upper back working together to support my head much more efficiently. Even though I was admittedly sore, I decided this short-term soreness was worth enduring so that I could finally solve my long-term neck pain. I also realized I definitely needed a raised monitor, and to actually get up every so often to stretch.
Muscle response: I still can’t get over how incorrectly I was using my muscles to support myself while sitting. The level of soreness is starting to subside, and I’m noticing more strength. My neck muscles don’t feel like rocks anymore, and I’m finding comfortable sleeping positions more easily. To say I’m a big fan is a drastic understatement.
(Photos via Upright and Getty)