Everything You Know About Posture Is Wrong!
I can’t remember a day in the clinic, where a patient didn’t say to me, my back/neck/shoulder hurts because I have poor posture! It is a widely held belief by many that sitting up tall with a straight back is the best posture for everyone.
Unfortunately, this is usually not the case, all the research has shown that there is no relationship between any postural factors, including the shape and curves of the back, and developing lower back and neck pain. However, if you already have lower back pain, you may feel it more (or less) when sitting, but it is not the cause of your back pain.
In fact, researchers have warned that posture with a reduced lumbar curve and erect upper back (basically sitting bolt upright!) requires higher levels of muscular activity and can cause increased discomfort and fatigue of those muscles, leading to pain.
So, what is the best posture?
Your next posture! The focus should be on shifting your posture and changing things regularly. Having the ability to vary your position and shift easily is much more important. If you are an office worker, or someone who spends a lot of time through the day in one position (sitting/standing/bent over) should try to vary things where possible. If you sit lots, try and break it up with standing, if you can’t stand, for some reason, try some seated movements like tilting your pelvis back and forwards, leaning from side to side, or changing your position in your chair.
Why does my back hurt when I sit in one position?
It is true, once you have pain or an area is sensitive, spending time in one posture can increase the pain. Spines like to move! The amount of time your spine can tolerate in one position may be reduced when your spine is a bit more sensitive or you are having some discomfort.
Another reason people often get pain when trying to relax in sitting, is they may not actually be relaxed! A very common pattern we see regularly is people consciously or sub-consciously bracing their abdominal muscles to help support their spine. Spines are incredibly strong structures that don’t need to constantly be supported, especially whilst sitting and standing. Your abdominals will naturally contract when they need to, but by adding more activation you can limit movement, increase muscle tension and compression on the spine which can lead to pain alone.
Think of it like your wrist, you wouldn’t walk around all day holding a clenched fist to support your wrist or hand bones? If you did, you would likely get a sore wrist!
Take home message:
- There isn’t one perfect posture for everyone
- The best posture is your next posture! Change it up!
- When sitting, check you are relaxed
- Spines are strong, and they love to move!