Do We Really Need to Sit Up Straight?
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Do We Really Need to Sit Up Straight?

Do We Really Need to Sit Up Straight?

Posture– or avoiding slouching—is often discussed by people who have lower back or neck pain.  People are often told to sit up straight, as poor posture has been thought to be one of the causes of back or neck pain. Research shows that people with low back pain may find certain postures painful, but it can’t be proven that the postures are the cause of pain.

Do We Really Need To Sit Up Straight?

Movement and changing positions can be helpful, as sedentary lifestyles are a risk factor for low back pain, among many other health conditions.

1. There is no single “correct” posture. Despite common posture beliefs, there is no strong evidence that one optimal posture exists or that avoiding “incorrect” postures will prevent back pain.

2. Differences in postures are a fact of life. There are natural variations in spinal curvatures, and there is no single spinal curvature strongly associated with pain. Pain should not be attributed to relatively “normal” variations.

3. Posture reflects beliefs and mood. Posture can offer insights into a person’s emotions, thoughts, and body image. Some postures are adopted as a protective strategy and may reflect concerns regarding body vulnerability. Understanding reasons behind preferred postures can be useful.

4. It is safe to adopt more comfortable postures. Comfortable postures vary between individuals. Exploring different postures, including those frequently avoided, and changing habitual postures may provide symptom relief.

5. The spine is robust and can be trusted. The spine is a robust, adaptable structure capable of safely moving and loading in a variety of postures. Common warnings to protect the spine are not necessary and can lead to fear.

6. Sitting is not dangerous. Sitting down for more than 30 minutes in one position is not dangerous, nor should it always be avoided. However, moving and changing position can be helpful, and being physically active is important for your health.

 7. One size does not fit all. Postural and movement screening does not prevent pain in the workplace. Preferred lifting styles are influenced by the naturally varying spinal curvatures, and advice to adopt a specific posture or to brace the core is not evidence based.

D. Slater et al. (2019) “Sit Up Straight”: Time to Re-evaluate. JOSPT.  49(8):562-564