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The relationship between posture and back pain isn’t what You Think ScienceAlert


In fact, back discomfort is the main reason for disability across the world. Many people suffer from some form of back pain at some point in their lives. It usually begins in adolescence and is more prevalent for adulthood.

For the 25 percent of those who suffer from back pain, it could be persistent, debilitating and even painful.

It may affect an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities or physical activity as well as work. For instance, sitting or standing, bending and lifting often cause back discomfort.

It is widely believed the idea that “good” standing postures are essential to shield the spine from injury, in addition to help treating and preventing back discomfort.

A good posture is generally described by sitting “upright” and standing “tall and straight” and lifting with an squat or “straight back”.

In contrast, “slump” sitting, “slouch” standing and lifting using an “round back” or stooped postures are often criticized.

This belief is shared by both those with and without back pain as well as health professionals working in occupational health as well as primary health care environments.

It’s surprising that there’s an absence of evidence for an established relationship to “good” position and back discomfort.

The perceptions regarding “good” posture stem from a mixture of social desireability and unsubstantiated beliefs.

Systematic reviews (studies that examine a variety of studies within a single subject) have revealed that ergonomic measures for workers, as well as advice for manual workers about the most optimal posture to lift and bending, do not reduce the incidence of back discomfort.

Standing and sitting posture

Our group has conducted numerous studies to study the connection to spine alignment and back pain.

We looked into the possibility that “slump” standing or “non-neutral” standing positions (overarching or slumping your back for instance) among an extensive sample of adolescents and adults, were associated with or could be associated with, back discomfort.

We did not find much support for this idea.

These results are consistent with systematic reviews that have revealed no clear variations in standing or sitting posture among adults with and without back discomfort.

There are a variety of spine positions and no single position will protect you from back discomfort. Patients who are both in upright and slumped postures could suffer back discomfort.

Position for lifting

Worldwide accepted workplace health practices that concern “good” as well as safe back postures when lifting do not have evidence.

Our review of the literature found no evidence that lifting with a round-back position is linked to or an indicator of back discomfort.

The study we conducted in our lab recently found that people who did not suffer from back painwho were employed in manual jobs for longer than five years are most likely to be lifting when they had more upright, round-back posture.

As a contrast the manual workers suffering from back discomfort were more likely to use more of a squat raise with more straight back.

In other words, those suffering from back pain are more likely to follow “good” guidelines for posture However, people who do not lift in a “good” method don’t experience more back pain.

In a study of a limited size, as those suffering from debilitating back discomfort improved and became less tolerant, they retreated and generally stayed away from what they considered to be “good” posture recommendations.

If posture is not the issue, what else?

There isn’t any evidence to support the existence of a single “good way of sitting” to reduce or prevent back discomfort. Spines are found in different sizes and shapes therefore posture is very dependent on each individual.

It is vital to move for back health, therefore being able to adapt and change various postures that feel comfortable will likely be more useful than adhering rigidly to a certain “good” posture.

Although back discomfort can become extremely painful and depressing however, for the majority of patients (90 percentage) back pain is not related to a clear tissue damage or the underlying cause.

Back pain could be similar to a strain caused by unnatural or sudden, heavy or unaccustomed weights on our back however, it can also manifest as a headache, even if there isn’t any injury.

In addition, individuals are more susceptible to back discomfort when their health is in decline For instance, those who are:

The risk of back pain to last longer if one:

What can people do to ease back discomfort?

In a smaller population (1-5 percentage), back pain can be caused by pathology, such as malignancy, fracture and infection as well as nerve compression (the latter can be associated with leg pain and decrease in muscle power as well as feeling). If you experience any of these, consult a doctor.

For the majority of patients (90 percentage), back pain is due to sensitization of back tissues, yet there is no obvious injuries to the tissues.

In this case the focus too much on keeping “good” posture could be an obstacle to other aspects which are essential to spine health.

They include:

  • Relaxing and moving your back
  • Engaging in regular physical activity that you enjoy
  • building confidence and staying in shape and healthy for routine work
  • maintaining healthy sleeping habits and maintaining a healthy weight
  • looking after your general mental and physical health.

Sometimes, this may require some help and coaching from a skilled practitioner.

If you’re standing or sitting, try to find an easy, comfortable posture and then change the positions.

If you’re lifting weights, the evidence suggests that it is safe to lift with ease, even with an arc back. However, make sure that you’re physically and mentally strong enough to handle the job, and take ensure your health is in good order. The Conversation

Peter O’Sullivan, Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy, Curtin University; Leon Straker, Professor of Physiotherapy, Curtin University, and Nic Saraceni, Lecturer at Curtin University

This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Go to The Conversation’s original piece.

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