Slouching ISN’T bad for you, claims leading spine specialist – and he says there’s no evidence trendy standing desks will ease your back pain

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Expert says there is no evidence slouching will give you back or neck pain  
  • Spinal physiotherapist says stress or physical activity is more likely to cause pain

Forget what you were told at school – slouching isn’t bad for you, according to one of Britain’s leading spine specialists.

The slumped posture, often considered undignified or rude, has long been thought to be bad for your back.

But Dr Chris McCarthy, a Harley Street consultant and researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University, says there is no evidence for this.

There’s also no evidence that people who slouch are more likely to suffer from back or neck pain compared to non-slouchers, according to Dr Chris McCarthy, a spinal physiotherapist and researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University

And trendy ‘standing desks’, which claim to improve posture and reduce back strain, don’t offer any advantages to the body, he claims.

‘Our spines aren’t going to be damaged by a bit of sitting down, even if we happen to be wiggling our fingers on a keyboard at the same time,’ said Dr McCarthy. 

‘Prolonged standing is no more comfortable for the spine than prolonged sitting.

‘There’s a pretty good reason why slouching doesn’t damage our spines, and that is because our spines are designed to allow movements as diverse as Olympic weightlifting to limbo dancing.

‘If you experience back or neck pain, you can rest assured that the posture you adopt when walking or sitting probably isn’t to blame as much as you might have been led to believe. 

‘Instead, it’s probably related more to other features of life – such as how stressed or physically active you are and if you have previously had back pain.

‘If you’re a sloucher, rest assured that it isn’t really bad for you and is as good as any other posture you adopt. Comfortable postures are safe and sitting is not dangerous.’

Dr McCarthy, writing for academic blog The Conversation, said there has been a ‘plethora of rigorous clinical studies’ that show there is no relationship between slouching and spinal pain.

There’s also no evidence that people who slouch are more likely to suffer from back or neck pain compared to non-slouchers.

Even the government’s latest guidance on office working puts less emphasis on posture at workstations.

Dr McCarthy said the best way for office workers to make their bodies feel more comfortable, increase their productivity and boost their mood is to take regular breaks to walk, stretch, stand or sit down.

Slouching has come to be associated with aspects of a person’s value, dignity, respectability and morality. 

The term itself hails from medieval Norse, meaning ‘lazy fellow’.

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