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Why back pain isn’t caused by your posture

Woman using a laptop, leaning on sofa. Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Rush Savla, R&D Physio
Rush Savla, Founder of R&D Physio

By Rushabh Savla, Tide member and founder of R&D Physio.

Rush is a specialist in shoulder, neck and head injuries and his ethos in helping people is simple: find a cure and not just a quick fix.

It’s common to think our posture is the reason for our back pain. We even say, ‘Oh, I’ve got bad posture’ as a way to explain why our back hurts.

You’re not to blame. A generation of health practitioners such as physios, chiropractors and osteopaths have sold the idea that your spine needs adjusting to correct your posture. Unfortunately you’ve been misguided.

A few of the common things practitioners tell patients include: 

  • “Your back is out of alignment”
  • “You have a curvature of the spine”
  • “Your disc has popped out” 
  • “You have one leg shorter than the other” 
  • “Your pelvis has shifted” 

As many people work from home during this pandemic, desk workers are keen to improve their home set-up, to find the ‘ideal’ chair and desk, to get everything perfectly aligned.

According to Slackline, in March 2020, there was a 172% increase in people buying screens and monitors online, compared to March 2019. And all sorts of devices and braces are sold to help people improve their posture. 

Many will experience back or neck pain. From our online physio consultations, we know that people blame their posture or the lack of equipment for their pain.  

Perfect posture doesn’t exist 

Let’s clear this up: there’s no such thing as perfect posture.

Often people are concerned about the symptoms and not the cause. For years, we’ve been looking at the problem the wrong way round. If ‘poor posture’ was the only reason for your pain, you’d be in pain permanently.

Understanding pain is complex and multifaceted – we’ll explain more about pain in another blog post. But what’s clear is that for many people, the bad habits we have outweigh the moving and stretching we do. 

Posture matters (sometimes)

The problem is the amount of time we spend in a particular posture.  

Let’s say you’re hunched over your desk for a long time. To most people, this would cause pain or discomfort, and it’s frustrating when we can’t sustain our concentration to get tasks finished. 

If we ‘corrected’ your posture and got you sitting that way for eight hours at your desk, how would that feel? You’d change your mind about posture being the cause of your back pain. 

A more likely cause of your back or neck pain is lack of movement.

In the tissues of our body are sensors called ‘acid sensing ion channels’ (ASICs). These sensors detect changes in ph – how acid or alkali the tissue is. If we don’t move, these sensors produce a sensation of discomfort or pain. 

To get your back moving while you’re at home, below I’ve set out some of the gentle stretches we recommend. And if you’re struggling with back pain and losing productivity, get in touch with us – details below. 

R&D Physio - 6 Stretches to keep your back moving

Prone Cobra

  1. Prone Cobra, on elbows
    Press down firmly through your palms and elbows.
    Keep your hips / pelvis on the ground. 

Child's Pose

  1. Child’s Pose
    Lower your bottom as close to your heels as possible while stretching your arms out in front. 

Child’s Pose with rotation

  1. Child’s Pose with rotation
    A great variation to stretch your obliques and back muscles. Similarly to the child’s pose, lower your bottom to the heels. Then take one hand and reach diagonally across. The other hand can rest on the lower back. 

Crookly Rotation

  1. Bent leg spinal twists
    With feet together and knees bent, take your legs down to one side and hold. Then switch sides.

  1. The Rocker
    Hold your knees together and pull them close into your chest. If you can’t wrap your hand around your legs, use a towel. Then rock gently back and forward, side to side, and make circles with your lower back on the floor. 

  1. Diaphragm Stretch, or deep breathing
    Lie comfortably with one palm on the chest and the other on the belly. Take long slow deep breaths. This opens up the abdominal area, and gently stretches the deep back and core muscles. 

Need more help?

If you’re struggling with back or neck pain and would like help from an online physio consultation (ideal during the coronavirus confinement), or if you have any questions, email Rush at R&D Physio: info@r-d-physio.co.uk 

Find out more about the services available and to meet the team, head over to the R&D Physio website

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Rushabh Savla

Physiotherapist and Founder at R&D Physio

Tide Member

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