Posture and Pain

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I’ve been noticing a trend in my social media feed lately. Articles, practices, and programs about correcting posture are popping up daily. The common thread is the idea that correcting posture will get rid of back pain. 

According to the latest research* the number of people experiencing back pain is on the rise. 8 out of 10 Americans will suffer from back pain at some point during their lives. If you are among this number then you can fully understand the desire to point the finger somewhere. We want to know why this pain exists what we can do to get rid of it. The idea that relief can come from something as simple as standing up straighter and sitting down less is a welcome message.

But when we look at the postures of people who report back pain we find something very interesting. Those with “bad” posture don’t report pain any more frequently than those with “good” posture. In fact, no correlation can be found between posture and back pain.**

Let’s step away from statistics for a moment and go back to my social media feed. The programs being offered don’t simply make claims, they produce proof in the form of happy graduates. A virtual parade of people who started with “bad” posture, went through the program and now look and feel fantastic. Is it a scam? Are these people lying?

I don’t think so. 

I think that anytime we learn about our bodies good things can happen. It’s possible that adjusting loads, figuring out where we have been carrying tension or have been causing our bodies to compensate in some way can lead to a reduction in pain.*** This is fabulous! I’ll never discount posture as one possibility among many to look at as part of a solution. I think of posture as one tool in a very large toolbox. And let’s face it, most projects require more than one tool.

So how can we use posture as a tool to help reduce or get rid of our pain?

I think we can use posture to create better proprioception (which is a fancy word that simply means knowing where your body is in space and understanding how to control it).

I use posture as a check in: how is my body set up right now and how does that feel? If I want to move or change that, what do I need to do and how does that make me feel?

Most of us are very out of touch with our bodies. We don’t pay them much attention unless they bother us. The more attuned we become the more we will notice how our bodies feel in different positions and we can then begin to pay closer attention to how they move and what choices we can make about that movement.

So, let’s talk about posture - You could start at your heels and go all the way to the top of your head, labeling numerous alignment points, but all you really need to know is the middle: specifically your pelvis, i.e. your hips. Your pelvis controls your posture. Learn where your pelvis is and how to move it - when you're standing, sitting, squatting, lying down, running, cycling, doing yoga - Then you’ve nailed posture. The rest of the body will follow what the pelvis does. 

In summary, posture is a not a quick fix for your back pain! On its own, it might help. It might not. But you can use posture to inform your other movements, like your yoga poses, to create a deeper understanding of your body which will give you the further tools you need to find ways to lessen - or completely let go of - your back pain.

If you want to see what this looks like in practice, I’ve put together a 5 week online program to explore not only posture's role in back pain but the complete process that I use with my private clients to teach them how to let go of thier back pain once and for all!

For more information, CLICK HERE

 

 

* compiled by TheGoodBody.com

 

**The following links contain summaries of numerous studies done on the link between posture and pain and all conclude that there is none!

https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/ptq/corrective-exercise-trap/

https://www.painscience.com/articles/posture.php

https://www.bettermovement.org/blog/2014/does-bad-posture-cause-back-pain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4527574/

 

***I would rather refer to these postural “corrections” as changing the strains that we are asking our bodies to deal with by standing or sitting in certain ways rather than reducing the definitions to “good” or “bad.” Think for example about carrying a heavy backpack on one arm for a long period of time. It might cause the person under the load to lean their body to one side, creating strain on the body because of holding this awkward position. Shifting the backpack so that the person is better able to maintain an easier load bearing position might very well bring about a reduction in pain. This seems obvious, but we can often do this to our bodies in subtle ways because of the positions we place ourselves in when sitting or standing. It makes sense to look at these possibilities and experiment with changes. But again, this is not a posture problem, so much as a strain problem.