What is Bad Posture? 

By Julia Musantry, DPT, PT

Have you ever been told you have “bad posture”? Let’s talk about it! 

There’s so much information out there today on the importance of “good posture,” and the truth is, the body is a lot more complicated than just finding one perfect posture to solve all your aches and pains. You may spend hours researching your neck pain and even after sitting up taller… your neck is still giving you pain.

Posture is highly individual and dynamic. Posture is much more about how your body adapts and interacts with different situations than one “correct” static position. Posture varies greatly among all individuals and what may be considered “good posture” for one person may not feel very comfortable for another.

Posture refers to your body’s alignment considering gravity. No matter how we position our body, gravity is always exerting pressure on our joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. 

If we are sitting for a prolonged period of time without movement, staring down at our cell phones or desktop, gravity and pressure are continuously pushing down on some joints more than others. 

Various research shows that standing or sitting more upright puts approximately 10-12 lbs of force throughout our cervical spine. As you can see in the image below, the more forward the positioning of our head, the more pressure is placed on the joints of our lower cervical spine. 


The truth is, the body is made to hold these forces, but not for prolonged periods of time with no movement. This positioning isn’t “wrong,” and at times looking forward and down is unavoidable, but prolonged positions without movement will always give us pain due to these increased forces.


Realistically, bad posture is any prolonged posture without movement, and good posture is any posture that requires movement! Be aware of your positioning during the day and take breaks to move. It’s important to be mindful when staying still for too long and how this can affect you. 

While these prolonged postures can play a big part in your aches and pains, it is not the case for everybody. To learn about your posture and body mechanics, schedule an appointment with your physical therapist for a proper evaluation and personalized plan addressing your specific pain. 

Rather than “correcting” posture, physical therapy can play a huge role in improving postural awareness, promoting postural variability, and increasing overall mobility to adapt to different activities and environments comfortably! 

1. Caneiro, J. P., O’Sullivan, P., Burnett, A., Barach, A., O’Neil, D., Tveit, O., & Olafsdottir, K. (2010). The influence of different sitting postures on head/neck posture and muscle activity. Manual Therapy, 15(1), 54-60 

2. ↑ Slater D, Korakakis V, O’Sullivan P, Nolan D, O’Sullivan K. “Sit up straight”: time to re-evaluate. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy. 2019 Aug;49(8):562-4.



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