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Is posture really that important?


What is good or bad posture?

Posture is one of the big things often blamed as the source of people’s pain. There are tons of postural corrections courses, blogs etc. that will help you beat your pain and fast! They all share one thing in common, they have not looked at the research. Without a good underpinning of evidence, it is very tough to be able to blame any issue in the body as being the cause of anything else.

We have no gold standard for what is good and bad posture. Most papers seem to take a bunch of people in pain and then a bunch of people not in pain and then compare the postures between the two groups.

Before we look at some of the data surrounding posture and pain let us ask the question of does your posture EVER matter?

Yes, I think it does in two scenarios.

1. If you can never move away from that posture

2. If you assume a posture over a long period of time.

So a posture that does not move is not really a postural problem, it is a problem of movement. We have incalculable postures that the human body can assume but we tend to try and swap something (bad) for something else (good – maybe) but we should be swapping it for ‘something’s’ (plural) in the form of movement and the ability to move into many different postural positions. Take your new ‘corrected’ and amazing posture and sit in front of the computer for 8 hours and it may start to let you know about it.

We are adaptable

Tissues are amazing at adapting to increased loads. In fact if you go to the gym that is exactly what you are asking your tissues to do, adapt to an increased load. These loads will be much higher and in more extreme joint ranges than your average bad posture.

The same maybe true of a muscle being ‘overworked’ and fatigued via a faulty posture as a source of pain. Surely over time a muscle would adapt to the level of endurance required to meet the demands of a task?

The human biological system has the ability to adapt and to self-repair. We have large tolerances and variations in both anatomy and function. The ‘corrective’ paradigm seems to assume an inherent fragility with the most minor deviations causing major problems.

Could it be you are looking at the RESULT not CAUSE of pain?

We could have been looking at the problem the wrong way round. Pain may have been a driver to adopt an adaptive or potentially maladaptive position to reduce pain. People with “poor posture” suffer from bouts of pain like us all, but if posture were the only driver for their pain they would probably be in permanent pain as, lets be honest many people rarely seem to change their posture.

Can you change posture anyway?

The habits people have will also probably outweigh the occasional stretch and strengthening that they do. 

In conclusion:

  • Science does not really support a link between posture and pain
  • A postural problem may really be one of movement
  • Any posture put in a bad position may hurt
  • Humans are biological adaptable creatures. 
  • ‘Bad’ posture could be the RESULT of pain
  • No reliable evidence to suggest we can change posture anyway

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