Does Bad Posture Cause Back Pain?
Updated: Apr 5
If I had a nickel for every time I have heard 'I have back pain because I don't sit straight', I would be rich. In the public perception, posture is the number one culprit for back and neck pain. But is it fair to blame it all on posture or there is something more to this than meets the eye? And is it even possible to correct posture?
First of all, if slouching caused back pain it would be fair to assume that people who sit upright are less likely to have episodes of back pain, right? However, research shows that people in pain don't have different postures to those that don't have pain. In fact, both people with back pain and pain-free individuals start slouching within 10 minutes of sitting.
Secondly, even if we had to modify our spine curvature in order to get out of pain, that would seem not to be possible. Manual therapy and exercise offer several benefits with regards to improving pain and function, however they are not effective in modifying posture.
So why do deskbound people often complain of back pain? It has probably more to do with inactivity. Prolonged sitting can cause ischemia (reduced blood flow to the muscles). Our bodies get more sensitive to pain when we sustain the same position for a prolonged period of time. Furthermore, other factors like work related stress and poor sleep are associated with back pain.
Therefore, posture appears not to be a key contributing factor for back pain, or at least not the only one. Attributing back pain solely to bad posture is simplistic and inaccurate. In light of the current evidence, treating back pain requires a holistic approach that focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle. It is advisable to take hourly breaks when working at the desk. Poor sleep, unhealthy diet and smoking should also be addressed. Specific exercises to target certain areas can be performed in order to release muscle soreness. Just keep in mind that the intent should not be to modify the curvature of your spine since it is not possible ( and not needed) but to improve the blood flow in your muscles.
To sum it up, the best posture is your next posture.