A common belief held and spread by the public, including healthcare professionals, is that back pain is caused by sitting, standing or bending with ‘incorrect’ posture. More specifically, many people believe that maintaining a neutral spine—instead of bending the spine—is the best way to sit, stand and bend.
Despite copious research, there’s a lack of strong evidence to support common posture beliefs.
Is posture relevant for pain? Yes, it can be to a degree. However, pain can be related to a myriad of factors, such as physical load, sleep, stress and beliefs. So, a potential problem with attributing pain to posture alone is that we lose focus of other potential contributors to pain.
What current research ‘does’ tell us about posture:
- There’s no single ‘correct’ posture.
- Differences in postures are a fact of life.
- Posture reflects beliefs and mood.
- It’s safe to adopt more comfortable postures.
- The spine is robust and can be trusted.
- Sitting isn’t dangerous.
- One size doesn’t fit all.1
Remember if you spend enough time in any posture (even so-called ‘correct’ posture), you’ll almost certainly experience pain eventually. Pain may just be your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to change postures or move.
- Slater et al. (2019) (PMID: 31366294)
- Swain et al. (2020) (PMID: 31451200)
- Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bethscupham/7387111804