Posture Doesn't Matter, Says Physical Therapist

New research suggesting that slouching may not be as bad as previously thought has challenged conventional wisdom regarding posture.

Physical therapists have recently argued that posture improvement campaigns may be more harmful than slouching itself. Patients with back pain are increasingly turning to physical therapy sessions and purchases of ergonomic chairs and posture-correcting devices. Still, epidemiologists estimate that approximately 568.4 million people worldwide suffer from disabling back pain.

Although previous studies connecting poor posture to rising rates of low back pain have lacked hard evidence, the belief in the causality between poor posture and future ill health has remained largely unquestioned.

Evolutionary biologists like Harvard's Daniel Lieberman blame industrialization for back pain. According to Lieberman, "from the body's perspective, many developed nations have recently made too much progress." He argues that overweight and obesity have caused "mismatch diseases," including back pain, among industrialized populations.

Certain therapeutic body workers and self-designated ethnophysiologists have attributed primal posture to indigenous populations. Esther Gokhale, known as the "posture guru" of Silicon Valley, promotes paleo posture and trains corporate executives at Google, Facebook, and other prominent companies.

Gokhale's belief in the virtues of paleo posture aligns with the 21st-century fitness industry, which creates slogans like "sitting is the new smoking" and encourages products that promote "primitive" eating and living.

While posture improvement may seem innocuous, it is essential to recognize its inherent value judgments and potential to perpetuate sexism, ableism, and racism. For example, previous research has shown that white men of science frequently assumed that Black and other non-white peoples felt pain less acutely than whites.

Similarly, posture improvement campaigns place responsibility on individual consumers, making it a product only those with a certain income can afford rather than an ensured right for all. The growing trend of working from home has increased demands for posture correction technologies, which are expected to grow approximately 5.7% over the next five years.

Researchers conclude that physical therapy professionals must dispel the medical myth that poor posture leads to bad health. People come in different shapes and sizes, with natural variations in spinal curvatures. According to researchers, "from a physiological perspective, it is impossible to have a 'wrong' posture."

Perhaps it's time to give ourselves permission to slouch once in a while.

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