The Great Posture Myth
What if I told you that slouching is ok? What if I told you it might even be helpful? You’d probably call me crazy, alert the posture police and I’d be thrown out of the physiotherapy profession quicker than those fluorescent shorts Richard Simmons used to wear. This flies in the face of everything you’ve been told by just about every healthcare provider you’ve ever had… doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, even your third grade teacher. Sitting with “good” posture reduces our likelihood of developing back pain and other injuries right? All we have to do is work on finding that perfect posture and then sit like that all the time! Well, what if I told you they’ve been promoting one of the worst false theories to plague both 20th and 21st century medicine? This is something I call “The Great Posture Myth”.
Posture and Injury Reduction
Google the question, “does good posture reduce injury?”. What you’ll see is a lot of anecdotal theories. For instance, one of the first results to come up will be from the American Chiropractic Association. They will tell you that, “Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments”. Seems to make sense right? However, is there any evidence to support it? There are studies that show that some sitting positions can either increase or decrease the pressure inside your lumbar intervertebral discs ( https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1113963 ). However, despite the large number of studies that somehow involved sitting posture, none have been able to find that “good” sitting posture will prevent or reduce injury. Furthermore, there is little consenus in the research on what “good” posture is. Partly, this is because of the fact that every individual’s spinal curvature is unique and people’s posture is partly an adaption to their natural spinal curvature.
The Better Way to Prevent Injury
So, if we can’t agree on a “perfect” sitting posture, that’s likely because there isn’t one. No matter how perfectly you try and sit, if you stay there long enough you’ll likely get sore. Try and make a fist and then hold that for an hour, how sore would your hand muscles get? Even though the deeper muscles that run along the back of your spine are designed for postural endurance, they will still similarly get tired if you try and sit in the same position for too long. So, what’s the solution? Move! Or at the very least pretend you’re one of those fidgety people who can’t stay still (they seldom have back pain!). While it may not alway be possible to get up and go for a walk, you can change the way you are sitting. If you are sitting quite tall then try slouching for a few minutes, or shift your weight over to one side and sit with a bit of a side-bending curve. However, the same rules apply, don’t stay in that position too long. Variability is the key!
Registered Physiotherapist, Co-Owner of Thrive Now Physiotherapy