Will Good Posture Prevent Back Pain?
‘Sit up straight’, ‘shoulders back!’, ‘stop slouching!’ – I’m sure these are things that, like me, you’ve heard countless times throughout your life. I’ve lost track of the number of times patients have come to see me and said ‘I know the reason my back is bad is because my posture is awful’. But is this actually true?
93.9% of physiotherapists in one study felt that education regarding optimal posture in both sitting and standing was important, and this is echoed in a study which investigated patients’ perception of seated posture, particularly in those with a history of low back pain, where 78% of participants thought that sitting in a ‘slouched’ posture was the worst way to sit.
In reality, there is actually very little evidence that any specific posture has a link to the development of pain or problems in an area, with one study even showing a slight decrease in risk of developing chronic neck pain in teenage female participants who sat with in a slightly slumped posture compared with those who sat upright.
Another showed no association between work-related postures and recent low back pain, but did find that having a job that predominantly involved walking reduced the risk of having had low back pain in the last 12 months compared to jobs involving long periods of time standing.
What this indicates, and what I see in my patients on a regular basis, is that any posture that you sustain for long periods of time may lead to the development of pain and/or stiffness. This means that it is likely not the position you are in that is a problem, but the lack of movement.
So, what does this mean for you? Firstly, it means you don’t have to be too mindful of the exact way that you are sitting, standing or laying down, we know that the specifics of that aren’t too important. What is important is that you try and change that position fairly regularly; my recommendation is usually around every 30-40 minutes, but at least once an hour if you can.
This can be something as simple as moving from sitting right back in your chair to sitting at the front of your chair, to using things like standing desks, changing out your office chair for an exercise ball or stool for short periods or simply getting up to grab a drink, take a stroll around the office and do a few easy stretches.
To put it simply, the best posture is your next one!