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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Corbin D.C

Does Poor Posture really Cause Pain?

For many years i have said "your best posture is your next posture". Poor posture though can indeed be a contributing factor to discomfort and pain for many people. However, the relationship between poor posture and pain is complex, and it's not always a direct, one-to-one factor. Additionally, the impact of poor posture on pain can vary depending on individual factors such as age, overall health, and the specific type of posture-related to someones job, stress levels, fitness, robustness as an individual and sleep quality.


One reason why poor posture may not always cause pain is that the human body is remarkably adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of positions and movements. The body has a certain capacity to compensate for suboptimal postures, at least in the short term. Over time, prolonged poor posture can lead to imbalances in muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination, which may ultimately contribute to discomfort and pain. It's like with many things in life, too much of anything can be detrimental.


Additionally, the experience of pain is subjective and can be influenced by a variety of factors beyond just posture. Psychological and emotional factors, stress levels, and individual pain tolerance can all play a role in how posture-related issues manifest as pain. Leaving us to say that it's "Complex".


While poor posture may not always directly cause pain, research has shown that certain types of poor posture can increase the risk of certain musculoskeletal issues. For example, a systematic review published in the journal Physical Therapy in Sport in 2016 found evidence linking poor posture to an increased risk of developing conditions such as neck pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain. This suggests that while poor posture may not directly cause pain in all cases, it can be a contributing factor to the development of pain over time.


One aspect of poor posture that can contribute to pain is the increased load and stress placed on certain structures in the body. For example, slouching forward at a desk can lead to increased pressure on the spinal discs and imbalanced muscle activity in the back and neck, which may lead to discomfort or pain over time. In a study published in the journal Ergonomics in 2014, researchers found that prolonged sitting with a forward head posture led to increased muscle activity in the neck and shoulders, which is associated with discomfort and fatigue. This illustrates how certain postures can increase the mechanical stress on different body tissues, potentially leading to pain.


Furthermore, poor posture can also affect the biomechanics of movement, potentially leading to inefficient or faulty movement patterns that may contribute to pain. For example, a forward head posture can alter the alignment of the cervical spine and affect the way the neck muscles function, potentially leading to increased strain and the development of pain. These altered movement patterns can also affect joint alignment and muscle activation, potentially leading to overuse injuries and discomfort.


It's important to note that the relationship between posture and pain is not always clear-cut, and there is ongoing research in this area to better understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship. While poor posture may not always directly cause pain, it can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal issues and discomfort over time.


In summary, poor posture can contribute to discomfort and pain through a variety of mechanisms, including increased mechanical stress on body tissues, altered movement patterns, and the development of muscle imbalances. However, the relationship between poor posture and pain is complex and can be influenced by individual factors. While poor posture may not always directly cause pain, it can be a contributing factor to the development of musculoskeletal issues over time.


What's can I do to avoid posture related pain?


The simple answer is to move more! I advise my patients to change their position while at their work station every 20 minutes. By moving more through the day, I advice to get strong. Weight training allows the body to resist increasing loads. It also negates the effects of sitting all day. Improving sleep reduces fatigue. Fatigue increases the likelihood of increased pain levels. Taking micro breaks can also help. Not only with pain but also with concentration. Studies prove that regular breaks increase productivity over time.

Chiropractic blog Cardiff
Does poor posture really cause pain?

References:

1. Smith A, et al. (2016). The relationship between sedentary behavior and chronic musculoskeletal pain: A systematic review. Physical Therapy in Sport. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28214092

2. O'Sullivan P. (2012). Diagnosis and classification of chronic low back pain disorders: Maladaptive movement and motor control impairments as underlying mechanism. Manual Therapy. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1356689X11002646

3. O’Sullivan P, et al. (2007). Lumbar posture and trunk muscle activity during a typing task when sitting on an office chair. Human Movement Science. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167945707000203

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