For years we’ve been told that slouching at our desk will condemn us to a lifetime of back pain.
But now a leading spine specialist has dismantled the old logic, saying fears of slouching are simply nonsense.
However, the myths about posture don’t end there.
Experts also argue that we should forget everything we have learned about sitting “correctly” because such a posture does not exist.
Fundamentally, it means that “bad” posture won’t give you back pain, nor will “good” posture prevent it in the first place.
Working from home on your laptop, sitting all day at the kitchen table, or working from the couch is not good for your back. Experts urge people to get up and change positions throughout the day.
Despite this crucial fact, sitting up straight is still considered the holy grail, just as slouching is frowned upon.
It’s backed up by signs dotted around offices, telling workers to keep their backs straight and sit with their butts against the base of the chair.
Other guidance also tells workers to keep their computer screen at eye level and with their arms extended.
Some companies even promote standing desks to their staff, believing that the modern devices will alleviate any back discomfort from spending ten hours slumped in a chair.
The NHS’s own guidance emphasizes the importance of maintaining good posture and says: “don’t slouch”.
However, there is no universally accepted definition of perfect posture.
A 2012 study A study of 295 physiotherapists from four different European countries asked them to choose what they thought was the ideal sitting position from nine images that ranged from slouched to upright.
Most physical therapists overwhelmingly chose two postures.
However, curiously they were very different. One sat with his upper back more upright, while another with his lower spine more curved.
So what is it about slouching that makes experts angry?
Dr. Chris McCarthy, a Harley Street backbone consultant and researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University, yesterday dismissed fears that have circulated for decades about the demonized slouched posture.
Writing for The Conversation, he said: “There is a very good reason why slouching does not damage our spine.
«This is because our spine is designed to allow movements as diverse as Olympic weightlifting or limbo dancing.
“If you are slouched, rest assured that it is not really bad for you and that it is just as good as any other posture you adopt.”
In fact, any posture held long enough can be bad for us, Dr. McCarthy said.
“In any position you will suffer muscle fatigue,” he told MailOnline. “And that can cause some discomfort, like a sign that you need to move.”
Sammy Margo, a chartered physiotherapist in London, makes it clear: ‘We’re not saying that slouching is bad.
‘Any position for long periods is bad.
“It’s about not staying in a certain position and trying to integrate the activity into daily life.”
There is also no evidence that people who slouch are more likely to suffer from back or neck pain compared to those who don’t, according to leading spine specialist Dr. Chris McCarthy.
Echoing that point, Dr. McCarthy added, “What we’re designed to do is vary our movements.”
He suggests following the ’20:20:20 rule’ where every 20 minutes you take your eyes off the computer screen, look 20 meters away for 20 seconds, and move your body toward a different potion.
It is not only beneficial for the spine. Moving every 20 minutes also improves mood, eye health, concentration, and spinal muscles, says Dr. McCarthy.
“Most evaluations of equipment with display screens now emphasize regular movement, rest and stretching, and gentle exercise throughout the day,” he said.
‘Standing and sitting for a long time is no more comfortable than sitting for a long time.
“Going from sitting to standing and back again throughout the day is definitely a better strategy to reduce spinal discomfort.”