How many times have you heard from your elders to “Sit up straight” or “Stop slouching.” We often hear these phrases growing up and many others like them. But how much does our posture relate to the development of back pain? Growing up, I always thought it was very important and as I began my training as a physical therapist, that was reaffirmed. However, as I became more of an orthopedic expert, I realized it is not nearly as important as we were told.
It may seem hard to believe at first, especially when we can sit or stand in one position for a long time and feel quite uncomfortable. The reality is the discomfort and pain that we can experience from poor posture is not related to tissue damage. It is however, related to our lack of movement as we are made to move. Oftentimes, we are positioned at our desks most of the day. The muscle tightness experienced from this prolonged sitting will result in back pain. In fact, evidence has suggested that the link between poor posture and back pain is weak.1 More recently, the idea of specific lifting mechanics has even been called into question, with a study showing that there was no significant connection between lifting with a little bend in the spine and development or persistence of back pain.2 Ultimately the fact is we have been misled. Our spine is an inherently stable structure which is made to move in many directions and is designed to be resilient. So knowing this, does your posture and lifting form matter?
Well the answer is a bit of a gray one, as is much in life. To put it simply, we should try to have “good posture” from time to time but focus more on movement rather than staying in one position. The “good” posture can give our muscles a rest and allow us to spend more time in other postures. We should not fear bending at the spine to pick up a pencil off the ground and should not feel forced to maintain a “good posture” all day. The best posture is the next posture and it is through that motion that our joints, muscles and tissues thrive.2 It is motion that we as physical therapists use to help you recover and empower you to take your life back from the pain.
If you are experiencing back pain, schedule a free assessment with our spine experts. We will examine more than the posture, change your movement patterns and give you the tools to return to your life pain-free.
Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our telehealth platform.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Louw A, 2018 Pain Neuroscience Education. [S.I.] OPTP.
2. Saraceni N, Kent P, Ng L, Campbell A, Straker L, Osullivan P. To Flex or Not to Flex? Is There a Relationship Between Lumbar Spine Flexion During Lifting and Low Back Pain? A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2020;50(3):121-130. doi:10.2519/jospt.2020.9218.