I’m sure many of you reading this suffer from neck pain, tension and associated headaches and like many of my clients assume it must be because of your slouched posture. There are many uninformed health providers such as chiropractors & physiotherapists who routinely tell their clients their neck/back pain is from poor posture. There are probably millions of dollars wasted every year on pain sufferers getting treatment to “fix” their posture. Unfortunately, its not that simple, people’s spines come in all different shapes and sizes, so there is no single “good” posture and there is no evidence of an ideal posture preventing pain. If there was, it would be a matter of sitting up straight. In fact, for certain people, sitting with a more upright and tense posture can exacerbate neck/back pain.
As a general recommendation, your next posture is your best posture, rather than focusing on sitting with good posture, instead focus on getting more movement and a variety of postures throughout the day. There was a study that looked at approx. 44,000 female office workers and measured the amount of sitting time and impact on health & back/neck pain. The authors concluded, compared to sitting all the time at work, sitting ≤75% of the time showed significantly lower risks for poor general health, and sitting between 25 and 75% of the time showed significantly lower risks for often reported back/neck pain.
I liken it to making a closed fist, over time your hand & forearm muscles will get tense, tired and achy, you would naturally want to relax and shake your hand and forearm muscles. Just like you wouldn’t tense your hand & forearm muscles, you shouldn’t force yourself into a more upright & tense posture.
Another study found females in their late adolescence who sat in slumped thorax/forward head or intermediate posture rather than upright sitting posture had a lower risk of persistent neck pain as a young adult. This study group which looked at females at 17 and 21 is quite specific, but it’s still an interesting finding nonetheless. The authors also concluded. the practice of generic public health messages to sit up straight to prevent neck pain needs rethinking.
I hope this gave you a new perspective on sitting, neck pain and movement, and how you can implement some evidence based strategies to help manage your own neck pain. There are potentially many more important factors when dealing with pain it’s important to take a more wholistic view when it comes to pain in general, you can find out more by reading this article.
Workplace sitting is associated with self-reported general health and back/neck pain: a cross-sectional analysis in 44,978 employees. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33957889/
Is Neck Posture Subgroup in Late Adolescence a Risk Factor for Persistent Neck Pain in Young Adults? A Prospective Study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33444448/