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Medical & Support Corsetry

This article is intended as a starting point. I am not a doctor and TLA is not a medical blog. This post is not intended in any way to replace a trained healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor if you think medical corsetry may be right for you.

The relentless stream of anti-corset propaganda, which often takes place in the form of concern trolling, can be especially frustrating to me because over the years I have seen far more cases of corsets providing medical support than causing any damage to the body.  Even one of the comments on one of my last articles was from a woman who wears her corset for largely medical reasons, spanning a variety of issues from scoliosis to asthma (!!).  (Scroll to Deanna's comment at the bottom.) But the myths persist, based on improbable risks that have more to do with ill-fitting corsetry and the miniscule percentage of extreme corset enthusiasts than 99% of modern and historic corset wearers.  The following is a short list of just some of the medical benefits of corsetry which I've witnessed in my years making and fitting corsets.

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

If you are intrigued by the prospect of medical corsetry, please consult with your doctor and don't forget that you get what you pay for. Medical corsets in particular should be purchased from an expert corsetiere and custom fitting is often integral to their functionality.  The angle and placement of seamlines is vital to a perfect fit, and the level of boning (both number of bones, flat vs spiral, and rigidity of the boning) should be tailored to your needs and preferences.

Back Support
It's especially ironic that one of the most pervasive myths about corsets is that they are inherently "bad for your back," or, "horrible for your skeleton." Often, when I lace someone in for the first time (especially men), they let out a sigh of relief and comment on the amazing back support. I've even repeatedly heard that the corsets are far more comfortable and effective than a typical back support belt, not to mention significantly more attractive!  The associated risk is that IF you wear a corset ALL the time (save for bathing) and do not do any core exercises, you may experience a slight weakening in your abdominal muscles. In all but the most extremist corset wearers, it's unlikely that this weakening would be pronounced enough to affect day to day activities.

Clessidra corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Clessidra corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Posture Improvement
Putting on a corset will immediately improve posture through the lower back (though, unless the corset has straps, shoulders are usually still free to slump).  Consistently wearing a corset will help the body retain good posture even when uncorseted, an affect I've definitely appreciated since I started waist training at the beginning of the year.  The taller the corset, the more of your spine it can support in an upright position. Maintaining upright posture can reduce aches and digestive problems (more info available from Lucy, naturally)... Proper posture can not only improve the hang of your clothing, it can also improve confidence, both real and perceived, as Sarah Chrisman discovered for herself. Make sure the fit of your corset suits the natural curvature of your spine; if you suffer from lordosis it may take some experimenting with boning types and bending to get the right shape. As ever, be communicative and clear when consulting with your corsetiere.

I am fortunate that my scoliosis is fairly mild, but Dark Garden still made asymmetric pattern adjustments to this made-to-order Alexandra accommodate it. Dark Garden "Alexandra" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Scott Taylor

I am fortunate that my scoliosis is fairly mild, but Dark Garden still made asymmetric pattern adjustments to this made-to-order Alexandra accommodate it.
Dark Garden "Alexandra" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Scott Taylor

Many of the clients I've worked with at Dark Garden are seeking corsetry to replace the back brace that gave them much-needed support in earlier years. Corsets can even be made that can aid in correcting scoliosis over time.  (Lucy has a short article on this subject.) A master corsetiere should be commissioned for a scoliosis support corset, as the degree of asymmetry can be very pronounced. Those with scoliosis often like their corsets to be particularly tight throughout, with less ease through the ribs and hips.

Hypermobile Joints
Some people have naturally loose joints, and some - notably circus performers such as contortionists - loosen and stretch their joints over time. A corset can serve as an exo-skeleton, holding the body together, provide (once again) support, and bracing it from being jarred. Dark Garden even made a pregnancy corset for a long-time custom client with hypermobile joints, who was concerned about the further impact the pregnancy could have on her joint issues. As with scoliosis, if hypermobility is a concern, you may find yourself wanting a tighter and more rigid bind to lock in your rib cage and hip joints.  A longline, high back corset would be my recommendation.

Dark Garden custom High Back Pointed Victorian corset with straps | Photo © Perry Galagher

Dark Garden custom High Back Pointed Victorian corset with straps | Photo © Perry Galagher

This is something I don't see as often, but I worked a few times with a lovely client who turned to corsetry after being diagnosed with osteoporosis. (Joyce, we miss you, come back and visit us!)  It's been a while since I worked with her, but basically I believe the corset served to stabilize and support her spine, and assisted with pain management. After just a few weeks in a ready-to-wear, she noticed improvement and upgraded to a fully custom piece with a high back and straps.

Diastasis Recti
Though diastasis recti is commonly associated with postpartum women, it can happen to men as well, as was the case with the gent I helped at this past weekend's Dickens Fair workshops.  He was under medical advisement to wear a binder to help rejoin his separated abdominal muscles, but found that it had too much give; the stretch wasn't providing enough resistance. Nine months ago he started wearing a corset day and night and he's now noticed improvement in his condition, lost weight (also medically advised), and dropped two corset sizes from a 39 to 35. For women wearing corsets after pregnancy, the corset will help ease down the expanded rib cage as well as holding together the abdominal muscles.

Pop Antique "Minx" ribbon corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique "Minx" ribbon corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Compression Therapy
Compression therapy can be used to treat anxiety. Corset fans have long described the feeling of being laced in (to a well-made, well-fitted corset, of course) as being like that of an all-day hug.  As it turns out, you also get some of the therapeutic benefits of being hugged by your corset as well! Compression therapy can help manage anxiety levels throughout the day. The primary challenge is that those with anxiety issues may also have difficulty with feelings of confinement, so knowing how to get out of your corset quickly in a pinch is important. Though there has yet to be a particular study on the effects of corsets and autism, deep pressure therapy is sometimes used to calm and help focus individuals with autism-spectrum disorders.

Dark Garden Cincher in black leather | Model: Anuka Mendbayar | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden Cincher in black leather | Model: Anuka Mendbayar | Photo © Joel Aron

Menstrual Cramps
Your mileage may vary, of course - personally I can't stand being corseted at the beginning of my cycle. However, if you are the sort who likes to curl into the fetal position to ease your cramps, a snug corset can exert the same sort of pressure on your lower abdomen and thus enable you to go about your day, far more functional than you would have been otherwise. I had a coworker who tended to tightlace during her period for this very reason.

So the next time someone tries to tell you corsets are bad for you, just try spouting off a few of these wonderful medical advantages to wearing a corset!  Do you wear a corset for your health? What style of corset have you found best for your particular health needs?

Marianne Faulkner

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

20 Comments on this post

  1. Melli Peoples says:

    YES, YES, YES!!!! I have osteoarthritis of the spine. As well, lack of posture of which I have recently understood is congenital. I went to a Renaissance Faire and tried on a fully laceable corset. I was cinched in so tight that I could barely breathe. I didn’t care about that. I DIDN’T HURT!!! I wear triple D bra. I tell you, it wouldn’t bother me one bit if I was flat as a pancake! I swear the things weigh 5 pounds a piece!
    My question/intent is to go strapless because my shoulders aren’t straight and I am forever reaching into whatever I have on to pull the blasted straps up. Is there a high backed overbust corset without straps?
    I’m guessing that you are in the UK. Do you know of any corsetiers in the US? Texas perhaps? Thank you very much for the information. You have been bookmarked!

  2. Vanessa solomon says:

    Do you have corsets for persons with hernated disc (bulge disc)

    • Cora says:

      Any specific questions should be sent directly to the brand you’re interested in purchasing from. The Lingerie Addict does not sell corsets or offer individual medical advice regarding herniated discs.

  3. BRYAN says:

    Wow I am suprized about peoples concern with medical corsets. I have been wearing medical high back and dorsolumbar with shoulder straps for 25+ years. They are not custom made I would like to have some custom made ones that eould eliminate the 3 side pull fan lacing and buckles. I use freeman mens 22″ high backed corsets. Neuromuscular aquired kyphoscoliosis . Yes PT for core exersize is needed to maintain functional muscles and aid in muscular imbalances caused by neuromuscular diseases. For me its a 12 to 18hr a day use with one day without a week. With out I would have structural bone damage and quite troubling breathing, digestion, and poor postural apearance. Freeman was been making medical corsets for close to 100years. And prescribed by orthopedic and physical therapists. So what and how narrow monded and unformed they are.

  4. Alexei says:

    I was wondering if you’d be able to help me find a corset-maker in the US who will make a custom medical/support corset. I find that corsets help me some, but because of existing back issues and unusual measurements, off-the-rack corsets haven’t fit well.

  5. Wanda Simmons says:

    I have had multiple lumbar abd cervical spinal surgeries and am interested in purchasing a corset. Can you help me??

  6. Amy says:

    I have PTSD and after a couple of Halloween parties, I noticed that my social anxiety was way down. The only thing different on these nights, as opposed to other outings, was my corset. I have since begun wearing my corsets whenever I feel a panic coming on and can literally feel the anxiety melt away. You are spot on about the confinement. I can’t lace as tight as I’d like sometimes and prefer strapless underbust, espescially waspies, to be the best for me because there is a bit more freedom of movement. In addition to anxiety, PTSD sufferers often struggle with connecting with their bodies, a type of dissociation, and the corset pushes back just enough to ground me. Grounding reminds me of the here and now, which pulls me out of the flashbacks and fight/flight state. corsets and a weighted blanket have probably saved my life! thank you for the article. This needs to get out to more folks!

  7. Danielle says:

    I did not get mine for health benefits but I have noticed a few. I switched from one of those latex “waist cinchers” which was horribly uncomfortable. I didn’t even know how uncomfortable it was. Each time I took it off my skin was in terrible shape. Plus it was digging into me.

    I’m losing weight so I’m not opting for a custom corset yet as I’ll need a new one frequently. I went with the Orchard Corset CS 426 after reading about it on this site. Instantly I found it was not just surprisingly comfortable, but shockingly comfortable. I think part of that is getting away from the latex. My skin can breathe now. But also, it is like having a gentle hug rather than being squeezed by that other thing.

    Wearing a corset helps to make me break my meals into smaller portions, that helps out with the diet a lot.

    But the one that caught me off guard is my neck started popping from time to time. I’ve had a stiff neck more or less for years. And sometimes when I’m not necessarily in the corset my neck will pop really loud in the spot where the tension has traditionally been. The thing is I think the tension is going away. All I can say is it may have to do with posture, I don’t know. Obviously the corset isn’t in direct contact. But forcing me to sit and stand up with out slouching also forces me to keep my neck upright. So I think that may have a positive impact. Whatever is making my neck loosen up, I’m not going to complain about it.

  8. Juliana says:

    I have diastasis recti from pregnancy, and I started wearing a corset less than a month ago. I’ve already closed my separation completely, after more than a year of *no* results from a stretchy latex thing. My back and abdomen hurt so much less, and my stomach looks much better. I’ve had more than an inch of reduction to my uncorseted waist as well, even though I only wear my corset a few hours a day. My baby is 15 months old, and I’ll definitely start corseting right away after the next one.

    • Kate says:

      Could you share the brand of corset that worked for you or where to buy? I also have diastatis recti. Thank you!

  9. Merry says:

    I have ADD and possibly sensory processing disorder (my doctor cautiously suggested it but also says it can just be part of the ADD) and just recently started wearing a corset for aesthetic reasons. I was ecstatic to find out that it helped lessen my anxiety, which in turn helped me breathe better and diminish my depression a bit(not much, but any amount is appreciated).

  10. Jay says:

    Another Autistic person here – I normally use slimming undergarments, and I’m the sort of weirdo who prefers to stay in formal work clothes than lounge about in sweats – pressure from corsets is so much better for me and benefits me neurologically speaking so increases overall functioning. Corsets mean no constant sensory background ‘noise’ from loose-fitting clothes brushing my body, instead I get constant firm pressure. Thank you for mentioning benefits to us Autistic folk.

  11. Wendy says:

    I have sensory processing disorder and probably high functioning autism. My son was diagnosed with autism three years ago, and he benefits greatly from deep pressure. I discovered corsetry while researching how I might be able to provide deep pressure for myself. I’ve been corseting regularly for about five months. It’s very calming for me. It also helps reduce my problems with sensory processing, reduces my fatigue, and helps me be able to do tasks which otherwise overwhelm me. I can tell when I’m hungry or tired when I wear a corset. My husband and close friends have noticed a difference in my level of function, and they’re very supportive, but it helps to know that it also helps other people as well. Thanks for this post.

  12. Carys says:

    I have endometriosis, and, due to multiple surgeries, very poor abdominal muscles. I find corseting helps with the pain from Endo as it mimics the way I’ll often place a hand over the pain and push gently but firmly. For some reason this often helps relieve pain. As my tummy muscles are so poor I often get back ache and my corset gives me relief from this too. I am saving up for a custom made but have a decent off the peg as an introduction to corseted and I love it.

  13. Nikki says:

    Thanks for the awesome article!
    I have Ehler Danlos, a joint hyper-mobility disease. My corsets help give me some stability and support to get through the average day, and i’ve found them heaps more comfortable and appealing than the medical braces available which often end up bunching up on my curvy midsection.

  14. Florence says:

    Great article. I’ve had posture problems my whole life and after googling lordosis, I think I definitely have that. I have terrible back pain because of it and am miserable pretty much all the time.

    Is it possible to properly lace oneself into a corset or would I need help?

    • Marianne says:

      It is definitely possible to lace yourself in! It takes a bit of practice; you’ll need to build up a little bit of strength, flexibility, and dexterity to do so. These days, I can even get myself cinched in on the bus. You might find it helps for you to loop the ends of the waist loops around a doorknob and walk away from it to maintain tension.

  15. This is bar far the most informative and comprehensive article I have come across on the benefits of corsetry. One of my clients suffered from scoliosis while growing up, and still sees a chiropractor. She has been considering a well-fitted corset, and I am going to share this advice with her!

  16. Sandy says:

    Great article! I love the “relief” feeling in my back when wearing a corset. There is just something that feels good about being held in and upright.

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