03 Nov Does bad posture hurt?
Everywhere you look you will see people with what is considered “bad posture”. Some examples we often see include the head out in front of the body or forward head position, hunched upper-back, and a lot of curve in the low back. But does this actually hurt? Is it bad for us?
One thing I often hear people say and often read is that bad posture can cause the neck or the back to hurt because the spine and pelvis are out of alignment so it cannot support the body correctly. Well, I would say based on extensive experience as a rehabilitation therapist, that is not really the case. First of all, the spine and the rest of the skeleton do not truly support the weight of the body. Bones are not magical anti-gravity structures. I will of course write a piece with much more explanation about this in a future article but for now, do not worry about your bone alignment and I will leave it at that.
Instead, we should put more thought into the soft tissues of the body like, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues (fascia). Those tissues and how they sense our environment, contract, and constantly adjust themselves is what supports the body (this also will be discussed in future articles with more detail). It is the soft contractile tissues that have the job of holding us together and keeping us from falling on our faces due to the pull of gravity. Unfortunately, our daily lives, emotional state, and life habits create the shape of our bodies. Many times how we spend our days and especially how we feel emotionally can create strong contractions in certain parts of our bodies that leads to a constant struggle between front/back and upper/lower parts of us in order to keep us from giving in to gravity and collapsing to the ground.
What I am getting at is our posture is not the source of pain or dysfunction, our posture is a reflection of our lives and living on this planet with its gravity. Speaking of gravity, our nervous system puts a great amount of priority in keeping our heads and eyes up against gravitational force. This is because our heads contain a large concentration of senses such as vision, olfactory, and hearing. It is very important that the head therefore is kept elevated and constantly aware of what is happening around us. Because of this, the body will go through a transformation over time and sometimes rapidly, struggling to keep the head and eyes up while other contracted areas are pulling it down along with gravity. That is what leads to the forward head position, hunched upper back, and excessive curve in the lower back to name some common examples.
So basically, no, bad posture does not create pain. It is the imbalance of the soft tissues and their struggles amongst themselves and with gravity that create spasms and fatigue which lead to pain and problems with movement. In fact many research studies have concluded over the years that there is no direct connection to the way someone looks on a postural level, and the pain they do or do not have. In other words, just because someone has a lot of curve in their lower back for example, does not mean that they will have pain in that area.
In conclusion, should you be worried about posture? Absolutely! But not because of your spine. Soon I will publish an article on what posture exactly is and how to change your shape, and it has nothing to do with trying your best to stand up straight. More is on the way!.