If you’ve been anywhere near a peer reviewed Journal in the past years you are well aware that the idea of positions equaling pain has been fully debunked (Eyal Lederman, Greg Lehman, Todd Hargrove, SportsDietPain ) The concept of poor posture = pain is still widely used (I won’t even list here…) but it is not backed-up by pain science.
Or is it?
Poor posture can indeed increase the chances of pain. Now, posture is a state. An act. A positioning of one’s self. Psychology tells us that if we stand tall with a smile then we will feel more powerful and be a more agreeable person.
“Kahneman writes about test subjects given a pencil. In one set of tests the subjects are asked to hold the pencil between their teeth horizontally. In another the same subjects are asked to purse their lips around the eraser end of the pencil. Then the subjects were shown cartoons from Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Those in the first group, with the horizontal pencil, were more likely to find the images funny than the second group, with their lips pursed around the pencil’s eraser end. What’s going on? The researchers concluded that clenching the pencil horizontally yielded a “smile,” with cheeks pinched back and the outer edges of the mouth turned upwards. Those holding the pencil’s eraser end in their mouths yielded a “frown.”” – The Observer
So our body position affects our perception of reality. And pain is perception of stimuli as well.
It makes us feel better to have “correct” posture. (recommendation: spend 20 min with this TEDtalk)
This is “body language.” Or the language of our body movements. We are familiar with people moving differently when in pain (limping, etc) but let’s chew on the idea that perhaps if you limped long enough, that language, or way of communicating to yourself and others, would rub off on your self-perception. You could indeed make yourself hurt, by acting that way. Fake it ’till you make it, as it were.
There are postures for interviews that make you feel more/less confident, postures for dating that make you seem more/less interested… and, I propose, there are postures that incline you to perceive more or less pain.
Pain and depression are symbiotically linked. Some nice research has been done on posture and depression:
“We tend to think the brain and body relationship goes one way. In fact, the passages go both ways,” –Erik Peper
“Walking with a slouched or despondent body posture can lead to feelings of depression or decreased energy, but those feelings can be reversed by walking in a more upright position, according to new research.” – Philip Riley
I suppose this all comes down to “why” again. I could tell you to sit up straight, and so could a staunch biomedical practitioner… and we would both be giving you some competent advice.
Now the answer to all this is still the same. Get moving. Your best position is your next position (as somebody says). It is said that thought cannot change emotions, but that actions can. So acting pain free, positive and powerful can stave off pain, negativity and weakness. So go freely and combat ‘text neck‘ and other such positional silliness – changing posture just might do someone some good.