Posture is thought to be a very important factor when trying to figure out the cause of back pain and many other musculoskeletal issues.
There seems to be a very rational and straightforward relationship for this notion that posture and pain to go hand in hand. The thinking goes that if the body is not properly aligned, it will lead to muscle imbalances, misalignment and pain.
However, in reality, the research on musculoskeletal pain disorders paints a very different picture. What we now know is that pain is highly complex in nature. It is caused by many different stressors and factors on our bodies, not just physical factors such as joint position, but also other psychological, and even social factors.
It’s important to remember that the human body is not a machine, but a biological ecosystem. As humans, we can adapt to change and to physical stress. Just because your body isn’t ‘perfectly’ aligned all the time, this by no means increases your likelihood of pain. And whilst posture can play a role in pain development, it’s just a small piece of the system.
Several studies on posture-related pain have struggled to find a direct relationship between pain and posture. The latest guidelines and recommendations actually suggest that there is no one “perfect posture”, and not having what used to be regarded as “good” posture does not cause injury to occur.
Of course, posture can have an impact on pain – but there is no one, correct or ‘perfect’ posture. The important thing to remember is to avoid postures that aggravate your personal pain, irrespective of whether it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way to sit or stand. But there is a time to avoid and protect the body in the early stages of pain, and after some time, when things have calmed down, it’s time to expose the body to different kinds of loads and build things back up again. This is also true with sitting and standing posture.
Listen to your body and make changes accordingly.
- Slater (2019); “Sit up straight”: Time to re-evaluate
- Alhowimel (2018); Psychosocial factors associated with change in pain and disability outcomes in chronic low back pain patients treated by physiotherapist: A systematic review.
- Balaque: Lancet clinical review: Non-specific low back pain.
- Pincus (2002); A systematic review of psychological factors as predictors of chronicity/disability in prospective cohorts of low back pain.
- Feyer et al (2000); The role of physical and psychological factors in occupational low back pain: a prospective cohort study.
- Aikasinen (2006); Chapter 4. European guidelines for the management of chronic nonspecific low back pain.
- Dieck (1985); An epidemiologic study of the relationship between postural asymmetry in the teen years and subsequent back and neck pain.
- Claus et al (2008); Sitting versus standing: Does the intradiscal pressure cause disc degeneration or low back pain?