Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Is Slouching Really Bad for You?
“Stop slouching and sit up straight!”. Sound familiar? Nearly everyone has heard this phrase at some point in their life and the idea of the “perfect posture” has been around for so long that it’s almost second nature at this point. All sorts of doctors, fitness coaches and health experts alike have always insisted that great posture is a major key to a healthy and pain free life. “Sitting in a perfect posture will fix your neck pain… back pain… headache pain… [insert any type of pain] pain!”, right? Well, actually no.
What is the perfect posture?
As it turns out, posture is not at all what researchers and health care providers once thought it was. The first problem is that no one can seem to agree what “perfect posture” even is, and it’s starting to become pretty convincing that the “perfect posture” doesn’t actually exist at all . In fact, in a 2012 study, 295 physiotherapists were given pictures of 9 different postures and told to select the “best”. The results showed that these trained professionals were unable to agree with which posture was the most superior, and even their two top choices were quite dissimilar from one another.
Does Sitting in a Bad Posture Create Pain?
Even if we remove this idea of “perfect posture” and just focus on the effects of bad posture, there still isn’t too much reliable evidence that supports any correlation to actual pain created by these postures. A 2016 study recently busted this myth by placing 1100 Australian teenagers into groups based on similar postures. There was no significant difference in their perceived pain levels regardless on which group they were classified into . It seems that just in the same way that everyone has a unique fingerprint, they also have unique anatomy. Each individual has a multitude of different factors that may lead them to find comfort sitting or standing in a certain way. And that’s okay!
Now before we get too excited about yelling back at our mom in the name of research for telling us to “sit” up, let’s address some important points: just because experts cannot agree on what the perfect posture is and cannot link a specific posture to pain perception, it does not mean that you should just go sink into a crunched up position on the couch for the rest of the day! Different postures will give your body a unique stretch to different muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues in your body. When you feel a twinge or an uncomfortable stretch, most people naturally switch to another position. This is the way it should be! Your spine is made to move throughout a beautiful range of motion easily and painlessly. Visit each motion throughout your day. The true key to having great posture is being able to comfortably move throughout all postures. Stretching, moving, and sitting or standing in a variety of different postures keeps joints healthy and strong. It should come as no surprise that these developments have lead to more and more health professionals advocating movement based exercise in place of bed rest for low back injuries.
Movement has been and will always be the best medicine for healthy joints and muscles. The next time you start to develop a weird ache or pain, switch up your posture, or even better, get some exercise to really get your joints moving. Just because your posture isn’t as important as many once thought, you still have no excuse to be a slouch! Get out and move!
Dr. Michael Hozan is a licensed chiropractic physician and the founder of Movement Clinic: Spine & Sports Injury Center, located in Amherst, Ohio. Dr. Hozan practices using a functional approach aimed at not only decreasing pain from injuries and other conditions, but also restoring full function so that people are able to feel better and move better than ever before. If you are in the Northeast Ohio area and are looking for pain and/or injury solutions for nerve, muscle, and/or joint conditions call (440) 984-7176 or visit mymovementclinic.com.
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1. Osullivan, K., Osullivan, P., Osullivan, L., & Dankaerts, W. (2012). What do physiotherapists consider to be the best sitting spinal posture? Manual Therapy, 17(5), 432–437. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2012.04.007
2. Richards KV, Beales DJ, Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PB, Straker LM. Neck Posture Clusters and Their Association With Biopsychosocial Factors and Neck Pain in Australian Adolescents. Phys Ther. 2016 May 12.