It is a long known recommendation from health professionals, parents, teachers, media, etc. to “make sure you have a good posture.”  It has been said plenty of times that if you have bad posture you will develop chronic pain, mostly the typical neck pain and back pain.  Or if you already have pain, then “it is because of your bad posture”. This has been so that there are many approaches to try and get good posture, some as creative as having an attachment on our backs that vibrates or beeps whenever we slouch.  But let’s be honest, it is mostly a losing battle for most of us. The majority of people can’t maintain “good“ posture for longer than a few minutes before slouching again. And for those who do manage to do it, reality is, they still complain of pain.  So, does it really matter if you have “bad” posture? Is it worth putting on the effort to improve it if, in the end, the results may not be what we expected?

There’s No Such Thing as Good or Bad Posture

As a physical therapist who has seen thousands of clients, I can assure you, posture does matter. But here is the thing, it doesn’t matter in the way it has been inculcated over centuries.  There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” posture, just the posture that comes before the next. It doesn’t really matter what posture you are in, so long as you can easily get in and out of it at will.  

Whenever you spend too much time in one position, the same tissues are being loaded for the whole time you may be there.  Let’s say you are in front of a computer for 4, 6, maybe even 8 hours. That whole time you are just slouched with your head forward to see the screen, neck cranked back, shoulder hunch forward to type.  All the joints, muscles, ligaments, bones, nerves are put in a position that puts some stress on it. Some stress is ok and as you move, you take that stress away and those tissues recover. But after spending 4,6, 8 hours there, your tissues will be submitted to that stress for so long that they won’t have a chance to recover.  That is when you get the discomfort and eventually the pain. And nowadays, this is a very common work-related injury, just by sitting. Now picture the “good” posture person who has been told plenty of times to maintain that posture at all times. This person is seated in front of the same computer but contracting his back and shoulder muscles to sit straight with shoulders back, head up and maintains the same position for 4,6, 8 hours.  This person is going to be loading different tissues from those of the person who sits slouched, but again, for such a long period of time that there won’t be enough time for those tissues to recover.  

Your Posture Constantly Changes!

So at the end of the day, what matters most is not that you can maintain a certain posture, but rather that you can move in and out of that posture at will so you can change which tissues are being put under stress while allowing others to recover. Posture should be constantly changing and not static. In other words, you should look at posture as “the beginning of the next movement.” It is ok to sit slouched for a while, then straight for another, then leaning to one side, then the other, etc. If you can move from one posture to the other without problems then everything is ok, but for some people, this is not possible. If you feel like you are stuck in one position a physical therapist can help. At Bethesda Physiocare, we can help figure out how to get you to move better so your posture can be ever-changing and not a rigid one.