"Sit up straight!"
"Don't look down at your phone!"
We've heard hundreds of variations of these over the years. And the general concern is that you'll cause long-lasting damage over time.
What the most recent research has shown, however, is that posture and pain aren't related.
One systematic review states, "there was strong evidence from six high-quality studies that there was no association between awkward postures and low back pain." This specific study was looking at whether being forced into "awkward" positions for physical work caused low back pain.
Another study stated that there was no relationship between low back pain and posture and spinal mobility.
How about texting? Is it this apparently dangerous habit that's going to give us all neck pain and headaches?
Not at all, the research shows.
One study found that "text neck was not associated with prevalence of neck pain, neck pain frequency, or maximum neck pain intensity in adults."
But what about younger people? Another study showed, "no association between text neck and neck pain in 18–21-year-old young adults. The findings challenge the belief that neck posture during mobile phone texting is associated with the growing prevalence of neck pain."
What this means, in reality, is that there are so many people out there that stay in these apparently "bad" postures, but it's a poor predictor of whether they will be in pain or not. There are people with "perfect" posture with low back and neck pain.
So here's the thing, there really isn't such a thing as a "perfect" posture. The human body is able to adapt to a variety of joint positions, none of them being good or bad.
But doesn't sitting make your hips and low back feel tight? Sure, but now we're answering a different question. If you sat up tall with a neutral spine for eight hours and didn't move, you would feel just as tight as if you sat in a slouched position for eight hours.
Feelings of tension or lack of mobility are more related to not moving and changing positions than the actual posture itself. And that in itself still doesn't directly cause pain.
If you're trying to avoid pain, keep your body moving. Develop strength in all areas of your body to the maximum range of motion possible. Don't be afraid of certain positions or exercises. Think less about adopting perfect form or posture, and focus on keeping your body moving and progressing over time.
A great quote summarizing this from another recent article states, "a common belief is that spinal pain is caused by sitting, standing, or bending “incorrectly.” Despite the absence of strong evidence to support these common beliefs, a large posture industry has flourished, with many interventions and products claiming to “correct” posture and prevent pain. Unfortunately, many health care professionals provide advice in line with this non–evidence-based perspective."
To your good health,
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Correia, Igor Macedo Tavares MSca; Ferreira, Arthur de Sá PhDa; Fernandez, Jessica MSca; Reis, Felipe José Jandre PhDb,c; Nogueira, Leandro Alberto Calazans PhDa,b; Meziat-Filho, Ney PhDa Association Between Text Neck and Neck Pain in Adults, SPINE: May 1, 2021 - Volume 46 - Issue 9 - p 571-578 doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000003854
Damasceno, G.M., Ferreira, A.S., Nogueira, L.A.C. et al. Text neck and neck pain in 18–21-year-old young adults. Eur Spine J27, 1249–1254 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-017-5444-5
Tüzün, Ç., Yorulmaz, İ., Cindaş, A. et al. Low Back Pain and Posture. Clin Rheumatol18, 308–312 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s100670050107
Widhe, T. Spine: posture, mobility and pain. A longitudinal study from childhood to adolescence. Eur Spine J10, 118–123 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/s005860000230