Does Posture Matter?
Please slouch (at least every once in a while).
     At some point in your life, you have probably been told to “stand up straight”, “pull your shoulders back”, or “suck in your belly.” Or if you have visited a rehab specialist you may have been told to “correct your pelvic tilt”, “flex your core”, or “squeeze your shoulder blades together.” All of these are common cues (with different verbiage) to “fix” your posture. While sometimes cues can be helpful to reduce discomfort while preforming a given exercise, we should not apply these cues to all human movement. The assumption that there is an ideal posture that we should strive towards stems from the corrective paradigm.

     This paradigm can be harmful as it implies that humans are fragile and susceptible to pain or dysfunction resulting from minor deviations from a set “ideal”. This paradigm may seem attractive as it offers a solution or a “fix” for our problems. Unfortunately, the corrective paradigm is largely misleading as it steers clients to believe that minor deviations cause major problems. This view is simply too reductionist and often undermines our ability to become robust, tolerant, and strong individuals! In this post, I will debunk this corrective paradigm concept while addressing the real question, does your posture really need fixing and is it causing (or will it cause) pain.
     If we look at the evidence surrounding posture, we find that there is no gold standard identified to tell us what is good and bad posture. Therefore, when someone corrects your posture, they are often using a commonly accepted aesthetic to achieve a different posture (i.e. standing tall to appear thinner or broader to project a strong physical presence). If we take a deeper dive into the evidence, we find that:
  • 80% of people without pain have an anterior pelvic tilt
  • Text neck or forward-head posture does not correlate with neck pain
  • Standing posture is highly variable and is not a predictor of low back pain
     So when might posture matter? Posture does matter when you assume a static position over a prolonged period of time. One example is individuals who can NEVER move out of a specific position, such as a soldier maintaining an at attentionposture. Sustaining one single posture (no matter how proper it appears) will likely cause pain regardless of the individual – especially if it is a new posture. Another example would be sustaining a slouched position at your office desk all day long. A posture that you repeatedly adopt for too long may cause a problem. This applies to your slouched posture as well as your perfect, tall, Amazonian-like posture. A sustained posture can be reframed from a postural problem to a movement variability problem. Simply put, our bodies move in a multitude of different ways and denying our body of movement variability is more likely the cause of pain associated with prolonged postures. 
     Let’s take a deeper look in to the science of sustained posture. Our bodies have sensors called Acid Sensing Ion Channels (ASICs) located in our tissues that detect changes in pH value. When we sit for too long or do not move around frequent enough these ASICs detect the tissue becoming more acidic and convert this pH change into a sensation of pain or discomfort. Have you ever found yourself constantly shifting or fidgeting in your seat at work? This is likely your ASICs at work!

So what does this all mean?
  • You do not have to worry about maintaining a perfect posture to get out of pain
  • If you are in one posture for too long, it may be helpful to move out of that posture and move your body often throughout the day. Try a brisk walk in your office or a quick jaunt up and down the stairs
  • Move often!
     In summary, the human body is amazingly adaptable! Every time we exercise, we are demanding our bodies to adapt to increasing load – the more we exercise and adapt, the higher loads our bodies can sustain! We can extend this sentiment to posture – the more we move, the more adaptable and resilient we can become to varying postures. 

Does your posture need fixing? Probably not!

But do you need to move more, increase your tissue capacity, and work towards a more robust you? Probably!

Written By: Thomas Abbass



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