Back pain is a growing problem. According to recent figures from the British Pain Society, back pain alone accounts for 40% of sickness absence in the NHSand overall it costs £10 billion for the UK economy [1]

Causes of back pain are multifactorial and the root cause evades many health professionals, with only 1% being linked to serious disease such as an infection or cancer (2).  However, lifestyle factors are relevant. We sit for longer periods of time, having compromised our evolutionary functional posture for longer interaction with technology and extended periods of driving. We are also more prone to stress, with many people also undertaking punishing exercise routines which - with an already dysfunctional posture - means that they are often doing themselves more harm than good. 

Treatment of back issues returns varying success rates.  People have different reactions to pain, and therefore there are often different response to standard treatment, and often the best that is prescribed, even in severe cases, is pain management, including ongoing prescription of pain killers. 

 In my experience of working with clients, there is often an emotional component of back pain, whether the sufferer has consciously acknowledged that or not. There is always a mechanical element - postural dysfunction, misalignment of the structure and muscular issues – but also a biological one, of which stress is a common factor, causing hormone imbalances which result in tight muscles and lack of integrity in tendons and ligaments making them more prone to injury, exacerbating postural adaptations. 

 Whilst manual handling and ergonomics are often covered in work environments, general postural guidance and identification of dysfunction that could potentially result in pain to the individual and / or sickness absence is often overlooked. 

Most of the people who arrive at my door with pain / discomfort, for massage, have tightness in their front line and weakness in their posterior chain. Their heads are often carried in forward head posture (normal measurement is 0-3cms, it is not uncommon for me to see readings up to 15cm). Our lifestyle predisposes us to this - we sit for longer periods, drive (often automatic cars), lean forward, scrolling on devices, heads down, shoulders rounded. In the end our body adapts to this for its survival (people dont realise that our bodies’ ability to adapt can be problematic for us because in the long run, it conceals the issue).

Here are ten common postures that may (will) be causing you postural misalignment, subsequently causing pain (if not now, it will at some point in the future)

  1. Sitting for long periods

  2. Crossing your legs

  3. Leaning forward / leaning on knees leaning against tables

  4. Looking down to scroll on a device / looking down as you walk

  5. Route marching as though you are in the army

  6. Laying down - sofa or bed - with legs bent at the knees

  7. Carrying heavy bags

  8. wearing high heels

  9. Insta-worthy poses: chest and backside out, often putting weight on one leg (these have a habit of making their way into everyday life)

  10. As above; caving chest and shoulders forward to give the illusion of hyper scapular definition (aka thinness)