Are you sitting comfortably?

Jan 18, 2021

When discussing with my patients why they think they have back pain the most common reason I hear is they believe it is due to their “poor posture

So is there really such a thing as good posture? The general public often believe this is sitting up straight and not slouching, as this is often what our Parents have instilled into us. At work, this is reinforced by ergonomic programmes to prevent back pain. These usually involve looking at the chair, height of monitor and where the keyboard and mouse are with the idea that if everything is aligned in a certain way – usually straight – you will get less neck and back pain. The back is naturally curved – from the side it is S-shaped, with the neck slightly concave, the thoracic (chest area) a gentle convex curve before returning to a concave hollow in the low back (lumbar region). A good posture usually refers to gently straightening out some of these curves.

However, there is no agreed gold standard of good posture.

Rather than focus on the right posture, the ability to vary it and move regularly may be more important. While it is appealing to think that if you sit up straight you will not get back pain, this is not supported by scientific studies.

To date, all the research has shown that there is no relationship between any postural factors, including the shape and curves of the back, asymmetries and even the way we use our spine, to that of developing back pain. There is no relationship between sitting and developing back pain. Yes, if you already have back pain, you might feel it more when sitting; but it is not the cause of the back pain.

If you don’t have back pain, then do not give your posture one second’s thought – think about being healthy. Sleep deprivation and stress are more important than then how you sit. Stress has a strong inflammatory role; it can make muscles tense.

However, it is true that once you have back pain, then your posture may indeed affect it. Sitting for a long time is best avoided.

Need to know…

1 Slouching and “bad posture” will not cause back pain.
2 There is no magic office chair. Try different chairs in order to find what works for you.
3 Get up and move regularly.
4 To protect your back, stay healthy, sleep well, and keep moving.

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