The myth of sitting badly or hunched over: it’s not bad that you feel bad, you feel bad because you have a problem

The myth of sitting badly or hunched over: it's not bad that you feel bad, you feel bad because you have a problem

I remember that in class, some teachers used to say repeatedly to us that we should sit with our backs straight, because if we remained hunched over or badly seated we would end up developing back problems .

However, this old topic dates back to the end of the 19th century, spread mainly by Franz Staffel , a German orthopedic surgeon.

Myth perpetuated by the Industrial Revolution

Staffel was concerned about the Industrial Revolution, because it had led to many people sitting for many hours . Staffel believed that this lifestyle change could be detrimental if the buttocks were shifted back and the spine drew forward. As Daniel E. Lieberman explains in his book Exercise :

Alarmed, Staffel was of the opinion that a person’s spine when sitting should maintain the same characteristic double-S curvature as when standing normally, and recommended using chairs with lower back support, which would force us to sit up straight.

The point is, many of the biomechanical arguments against slouching have been disproven . Furthermore, after a large number of meta-analyzes and systematic reviews , there is no consistent evidence linking common postures when sitting, flexed, or stooped with back pain.

There is also no evidence that people who sit longer are more likely to suffer from back pain or that the incidence of back pain can be decreased by using special chairs or by getting up often.

Then? What’s going on? What can we do? Well stop confusing cause and effect , basically. Improving posture when sitting does not change anything, what happens is that we sit better if we are in better shape.

On the other hand, the best predisposing factor to avoid back pain is to have a strong lower back, with muscles that are more resistant to fatigue; in turn, people with strong, fatigue-resistant backs are more likely to maintain better posture.