It looks like nothing more than an accessory Lakers center Dwight Howard wears underneath his jersey.

But Howard has sported a black protective undershirt for the past 11 games and likely will do so tonight when the Lakers (31-31) host the Toronto Raptors (24-38) at Staples Center for more practical reasons.

Howard said Posture Shirt, manufactured by Santa Ana-based company Alignmed, has played a large part in ensuring his surgically repaired back and aggravated labrum in his right shoulder heal properly.

"The Posture Shirt helps my back and keeps everything aligned," he said. "It helps my shoulders with that, too."

Bill Schultz, who invented the shirt as the CEO of Alignmed, said in a phone interview with this newspaper the elastic bands running underneath the shirt keep Howard's scapula and spine lined up over his hips. That helps Howard maintain muscle balance and improve his range of motion. Schultz said the shirt also balances Howard's muscle and shoulder joints together, making it easier for him to absorb contact.

"When Howard moves, those elastic bands move with him," Schultz said. "That ends up stretching and massaging the muscle."

Howard took up Alignmed's offer to try on the shirt in hopes the device would prevent shoulder injuries. The Lakers then received NBA approval for Howard to wear the shirt because it's considered a medical device and not a commercial product.