What is posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body when sitting or standing.
There is a common belief that 'good' posture is important to protect the spine from harm, and 'good posture' is often used to treat back pain, and even used as a form of prevention.
Good posture is often defined as 'sitting up straight', 'with an aligned spine', and 'shoulder blades pulled down', 'whilst sitting equally on your sitting bones'.
Conversely, 'slump, or slouch sitting' is often advised to be avoided, with warnings of 'damage to the spine'. There is a lack of evidence for a strong relationship between good posture and back pain. Systemic reviews have found ergonomic interventions for workers, have not reduced work-related back pain (Peter O'Sullivan et al. 2022. The Conversation).
Why is sitting up straight difficult to do?
The spine has natural curves, that need to do what they naturally want to do. Old fashioned advice of sitting up straight is being recognised as unhelpful.
Why shouldn't I slouch?
Slouching is ok. In fact, slouching is recommended. Slouching bends the lower spine which is essential for spinal health.
- 'Bad' posture is not a cause of neck and back pain
- Sitting up straight is not a sign of good posture
- Pulling your shoulder blades down does not correct your posture
Did you know?
- Muscles need energy to relax, therefore when they are tired, they tense up.
- Muscles get energy when they move, therfore when you move, you 'feed' them oxygen and nutrients.
- muscles work harder when still, therefore when you move, they work less.
- The top of shoulder muscles are perpendicular to gravity, and therefore are working hard against gravity all day everyday until you lay down. Tension in these muscles is definitely normal.
- Too much is too much. Sitting and standing for long periods can be too much for the joints, the muscles and the mind.
- Movement is, and can be imperfect. Exploration of movement and feeling uncomfortable and feeling uncertain is movement.
- Too little can be too little. Not enough movement can cause tension, tiredness, and pain.
Posture is often a product of the patterns we have set ourselves, the brain carves out routes of movements, and we rarely deviate from them. The way we sit or stand, will determine the movemetns we produce in our necks, spine, and limbs, and it is likely that we repeat those movemetns over and over again ever single day.