The Complex Relationship Between Poor Posture and Pain: A Closer Look with a Focus on Exercise
The notion that poor posture leads to pain has long been a cornerstone in medical and therapeutic practices. However, emerging research suggests that this relationship may not be as straightforward as we once thought. At Move Chiropractic, we are committed to leveraging the latest scientific insights to offer comprehensive, evidence-based treatments that focus on exercise, soft tissue therapies and personalized care.
The Traditional View on Posture and Pain
The standard view is that an "ideal" posture minimizes stress on the spine and associated musculoskeletal structures, thereby reducing the risk of pain. This concept posits that poor posture leads to muscle strain, spinal misalignment, and ultimately, discomfort or pain. We are learning that this may not be the case, as we once thought.
Current Research and Understanding
New studies indicate that poor posture may not be a primary culprit in cases of back and neck pain. For example, Karimi et al. (2020) found little correlation between spinal curvature and pain. Similarly, Pietrek et al. (2018) stated that the relationship between posture and pain remains inconsistently supported by evidence. Lack of overall physical activity is likely a larger component than posture when discussing pain.
Variability in Pain Sensation
Research has shown that people with what is typically labeled as "poor" posture often do not experience pain, suggesting that other factors may be more significant.
Psychological elements such as stress and emotional well-being have been shown to play a considerable role in the perception of pain (Moseley & Vlaeyen, 2015).
Different anatomical features, muscle tone, and flexibility mean that what is "poor" posture for one individual may not lead to pain in another.
Benefits of Exercise in Relation to Posture
Although posture itself may not be the direct cause of pain, exercise can nonetheless play a crucial role in overall musculoskeletal health. Regular physical activity can help improve muscular balance, which in turn can promote a more "neutral" posture. This doesn't have to be any really high intensity exercise. All we need is enough to engage and challenge different muscle groups throughout the day.
Strengthening Core and Back Muscles
Exercises that focus on the core and back can enhance postural stability, reducing the tendency to slouch or lean forward, which is often labeled as poor posture.
Increased flexibility from regular stretching can enable better overall joint mechanics, which is particularly beneficial for people who sit or stand for extended periods.
Exercise has well-documented psychological advantages, including stress reduction. Given that stress is a significant factor in pain perception, regular physical activity can indirectly mitigate pain sensations.
Treatment Approaches at Move Chiropractic
Understanding the multifactorial nature of pain is vital for effective treatment. At Move Chiropractic, our typical 30-minute treatment session includes a thorough assessment along with a variety of soft tissue therapies such as trigger point therapy, dry needling, and cross friction therapy, often complemented by specific exercise regimens.
The paradigm is shifting in how we understand the relationship between posture and pain. While poor posture might be a factor, it is often not the sole or primary cause of discomfort. Exercise remains a beneficial component for overall well-being, potentially aiding in postural balance and pain reduction. If you need help finding the right exercises for you, I'm here to help!
Karimi, N., Rezvani, A., & Holewijn, R. M. (2020). Investigating the relationship between the shape of the spine and lower back pain: A systematic review. The Spine Journal, 20(10), 1570–1579.
Pietrek, M., Beltz, N., & Twomey, R. (2018). A comprehensive review on the correlation between the upright posture and musculoskeletal pain: Evidence and theories. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 30(2), 301–307.
Moseley, G. L., & Vlaeyen, J. W. (2015). Beyond nociception: The imprecision hypothesis of chronic pain. Pain, 156(1), 35–38.