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Back Pain and Bad Posture: Have We Been Misinformed?

Sitting up straight has been the standard for maintaining good posture and preventing back pain for as long as any of us can remember. Slouching and slumping in a chair has been assumed to cause those aches and twinges we all feel from time to time, eventually turning into a long-term issue. However, the evidence to support this idea of bad posture is remarkably thin. But does this make it nonsense?

Is a Straight Back Always Best?bad posture

The general population will probably say that a straight back is best when it comes to posture and preventing back pain, but even amongst professionals there is no agreed upon perfect posture or even a single definition of bad posture.

In a study of 295 physiotherapists across four European countries, 85% picked one of two spinal positions as the best. The straighter of the two positions actually required more muscular engagement, potentially increasing fatigue and soreness. But this didn’t mean the curvier position was superior either, as it showed no evidence of reducing the potential of back pain.

This could point to their being a best posture for each individual. The straightness so heralded may negatively fight against the natural s-shaped curvature of the spine, for some more than others. For example, women have a greater amount of inward curvature in the lower back that may not favour being straightened out. Whereas too much curvature could put too much pressure at one point for others.

Easy Movement is More Important than Bad Posture

Instead of focusing on the stationary sitting position the primary concern should be the ability to shift how you sit. Staying in one position is going to put more strain in one area regardless of angle. Instead, the comfort and flexibility when readjusting is of greater importance as it can relieve unwanted pressure without causing aggravation.

This doesn’t mean bad posture should be overlooked, but rather the way in which bad posture is interpreted should be changed. If you find that you have pain while stationary and cannot alleviate it by moving to a different position – it may even hurt during movement – then it’s worth getting a professional assessment on your posture. However, if pain is non-existent then there’s no real need for concern.

What Causes Back Pain When Seated?bad posture

Since bad posture may only be one part of what contributes to discomfort and pain in the back you may be wondering what else could cause it. Of course, pre-existing conditions are one element that can contribute, but for most of us there can be psychological reasons.

The most common of these is stress. The physical tension that can be caused by stress can restrict the all-important ease of movement in a chair. This can be further exacerbated by being anxious about moving and causing yourself pain, further adding to the tension.

To combat this, it’s important to reduce stress levels. Not only will this reduce tension caused by stress itself, but it will also help lower anxiety about moving when sitting. This will then release even more tension allowing free movement and greater comfort when seated.

So, next time you find yourself struggling to get comfortable in a chair try to take your mind off your supposed bad posture and try to relax instead.