When it comes to back pain, don't believe the myths

Got back pain? Lots of American do, but they also have misconceptions about proper posture, according to Esther Gokhale, author of 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back.

Here are a few of those myths, in her words:


--Myth #1 – I just have to remember to straighten up: "Just straighten up" is usually accompanied by muscle tension and distortion of the spine. It quickly leads to discomfort and fatigue, causing most of us to return to slouching.

--Myth #2 – The pelvis should be tucked to protect the back: Nearly everyone from fitness instructors and dance teachers to medical professionals makes the mistake of recommending a tucked pelvis. However, this is discordant with our natural structure; anteverting (tipping) the pelvis preserves the natural shape and protects from disc damage.


--Myth #3 – Chin up and chest out constitutes good posture: Not only does this create tension, it exaggerates the cervical and lumbar curves, hindering circulation to these areas and potentially pinching nerve roots.

--Myth #4 – Good posture takes mental and physical effort: The body wants to heal, and good posture feels good. As you practice new movements, they will become increasingly natural to your body. You also do not need to be young, strong, flexible or physically fit to have good posture.

--Myth #5 – It's too late to change my posture: It is never too late to change your posture. The body is resilient and adaptable.

So, in sort, don't tuck your bum, don't stick out your chest and don't concentrate tension in your back while you're trying not to slump. Anything here surprising? Anyone been doing these things?

See a few more myths on the next page.

Photos of bad alignment and good alignment courtesy of Esther Gokhale

Myth: Posture is a trivial thing my moth use to pester me about only so that I would look presentable: Actually, posture is key to optimal health. Just as a building needs a solid foundation and structure to remain strong in wind, rain, and earthquakes, so does your body. Proper alignment of the organs, bones and muscles improves circulation and breathing, boots the nervous system, supports organ functions, promotes muscle relaxation and stress reduction, enhances athletic performance, reduces risk of injury, and accelerates healing from injury

--Myth: Belly breathing is good breathing; chest breathing is bad breathing: Different kinds of breathing are needed for different kinds of movement. Belly breathing is appropriate when you have an elevated need for oxygen (as when you are running) or breath control (as when you are playing the saxophone). Otherwise, when at rest, your inhalations should primarily expand your chest cavity and lengthen your back, and only slightly move your belly. The movement in the chest and back is crucial for maintaining normal rib cage size and shape and for fostering healthy circulation around the spine.


--Myth: A normal spine is an "S" shaped spine: Doctors have mistaken the average in the population for normal and even ideal. A normal spine actually has a very light curvature (except at the final spinal disc, L5-S1).

--Myth: Good posture naturally comes from being physically fit and active: If you have poor posture, increased activity is not an efficient way to arrive at better posture and can even result in injuries instead of improvement. It is better to focus on posture in its own right, or on posture alongside increased activity.