I’m sure at some point in your life you have been told to sit up straight or stop slouching, but why is it really important in the first place, and how straight should I sit, or stand, or walk for that matter? As well as this, we all know someone who seems to slouch too much, or has a big arch in their back when they walk but do not complain of any pain. Why is it that posture should be important for me but not them?
Sitting up straight is probably not an accurate term as our spine is not designed straight. It is made up of three separate curves, one each for our lower back, upper back and neck which if you look at it from side on, forms a rough ‘S’ shape. If these curves are maintained in a neutral position, the weight is distributed evenly though the various structures of the spine (bones, joints, discs and ligaments). If this neutral balance is upset, weight distribution will become uneven, and so one area will have to transmit more load, and therefore undergo more stress than another.
When this weight distribution is uneven the weight of part of your spine does not balance comfortably on the rest of it in response to gravity. To hold this area in place you need to increase activity of the surrounding musculature which can result in fatigue and tightness of these muscles. A good example of this would be getting tight shoulder muscles when your head has been poked forward to look at a computer too long.
So does this mean if I sit up straight, all my pain will go away? In some cases yes! However remember that pain will often depend on many factors, of which posture is only one, and therefore other issues may need to be addressed to resolve your symptoms. Remember too that there is no perfect posture for everyone. It will depend on the type of injury you have, age, sex, and activities that aggravate your symptoms.