Your posture will never be good enough

by Dan Cerone

Sorry to say it, but you’re never going to “fix your posture.” A few weeks ago, myself and Dr. Bo Babenko spoke to a group of executives about optimizing the little amount of time during the week to offset the busy hours in the office. One of the most common themes that was consistently brought up were individuals attempting to fix their posture or change something about their environment to make their posture better. The biggest shock to the attendees was that doing these things will definitely NOT fix their posture. The truth is no one will fix your posture because there isn’t a way to do so.

For years society has held the standard that “good posture” is one in which a person is standing tall with their shoulders back and their chest puffed out. This even plays into our psychology with how we view people.

Take two pictures of the same person one with the “good posture” that was just described, and another with hunched shoulders and a slouched back and ask 100 people to describe. The “good posture” picture would be filled with adjectives such as powerful, confident, strong, fierce. The “bad posture” picture on the other hand would be described as timid, weak, and shy. So because of the years and years of idealism behind posture we inherently think of certain positions as good/bad. The fact is someone with “good posture” is just as likely to have disc herniations and chronic pain as someone with “bad posture.”

It’s really sad that now there are even commercial products that are targeted towards people looking to get out of pain by “fixing” their posture. Everything from physical straps that hold you into positions to devices that claim to detect when your joints get out of an ideal posture. The fact is not even experts will agree on what good posture is.

A study conducted with physiotherapists (296 of them) analyzing what good posture is wasn’t even able to produce solid results. They did not agree to an optimal posture although the majority narrowed it down to two very different sitting postures. (Manual Therapy 17 (2012) 432-437).

So if no one can agree on what we should be doing when we’re sitting and standing statically during the day; what is the real answer?

The fact is the best posture in the most variable posture. The more you are able to adjust position and move around in different planes of motion during the day the better off you will be. Now obviously some posture are inherently better than others and cause less wear and tear on your body. For instance it’s still not ideal sitting at your desk all day hunched over with your head 2 feet in front of your spine. But sitting up tall and pulling your shoulders back all day will only mean slightly better — and not optimal. Remember that optimal means changing positions on a regular basis throughout the course of the day.

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