We have often been under the instruction from our siblings, friends, parents, teachers, healthcare providers (OK, pretty much everyone) that our posture is poor, we should sit more upright, roll the shoulders back, and tuck the chin. All of this in an effort to avoid "your back giving out" or "you won't grow as tall" or "that's why you have back pain".
While I am not here to set all the poor-postured people free of accusations (looking at your desk jockeys), I want to debunk some of the myths surrounding "perfect posture" as it relates to pain and healthcare providers' actual understanding of what the perfect posture is.
We all are facing a time where we are spending more time at home, and, inevitably, spending more time sitting. Whether you're working from home or binging the Tiger King, it is important to be cognizant of our spines in various positions. While we know prolonged sitting can be detrimental to spine pain, it remains unclear how detrimental our posture is to our overall health.
The first "myth" to debunk is that healthcare providers know exactly what a "perfect posture" even looks like. In a 2012 study from the Journal of Manual Therapy (O'Sullivan, K), 295 physiotherapists from 4 different European countries were shown 9 images of people sitting and were asked to select their "best perceived sitting position". 85% of the physiotherapists selected two significantly different positions as the best sitting position.
Okay, what does that actually tell us?
Well, it tells us that even healthcare professionals are unable to identify a "perfect posture" when sitting. This isn't to say healthcare professionals have no idea what they're talking about, but (maybe) more indicative of the fact that there may not be a true "perfect posture" that has been preached to us since we were little.
What about posture's relation to back pain? There is certainly a link between the two, right?
A 2016 article from the Journal of Physical Therapy examined neck posture's role in relation to neck pain in Australian adolescents. Four subgroups or clusters were established of differing postures and biopsychosocial factors. While there were some differences in physical activity amongst the group, there was found to be no association between pain or headaches with neck posture.
This is important because often times with spinal pain, we can feel as though we are somewhat trapped and are unsure what to do. We feel as though limiting our motion will typically help, when for most spinal conditions, movement is the best medicine.
It is also important to note that more studies and research should be performed to make this research more concrete.
The human spine was made to move in a variety of different planes and motions. It is also designed to withstand different loads and pressures in different positions. Our bodies were made to move, and that is no different when it comes to being stuck in the house for most of the day.
The best advice I give patients with questions on perfect posture is exactly what I said above. We should be aware of our bodies, listen to them, and move! If your body hurts from sitting a certain way, change it up! Try lying on your back and stomach. Try hanging out on your knees for a little bit. The most important thing is to not get stuck in one posture for prolonged periods of time.
Mirco-breaks are another great way to not only give your mind a break, but give your spine some movement! At least once per hour, take a few minutes and go through some spinal mobility exercises (check out our instagram or Facebook pages!). This will help you stay ahead of the curve to keeping your spine moving and decreasing the likelihood for pain or injury
As always, it is important to be properly evaluated in our office before putting any of techniques to use, but we always encourage plenty of spinal mobility throughout the day; especially while you're spending more time at home.
Please reach out to us by phone or email if you have any questions about your at-home sitting postures and ways you can change it up.
Please follow along our social media pages @wurthchiro to keep up with our latest posts and exercises to keep you guys moving.
See you all soon!
O'Sullivan, K. "What do physiotherapists consider to be the best sitting spinal posture?". The Journal of Manual Therapy. October 2012. https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/96/10/1576/2870247
Richards, K. "Neck Posture Clusters and Their Association With Biopsychosocial Factors and Neck Pain in Australian Adolescents". October 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=neck+posture+clusters+and+their+assocation+with