Head up, shoulders back, pain solved. That’s how it’s supposed to go. But what if everything you’ve been told about “good posture” is wrong, and in fact, is only making your pain worse?
This is the question I’ve been asking myself for months now, ever since — after almost a decade of nagging left shoulder pain that wouldn’t go away — a practitioner I found on YouTube finally healed me.
Seeking medical advice on YouTube? I know, I know. But I was at the end of my rope with my body — and my doctors. For years, every expert I consulted told me the same thing: “You hunch over a computer all day. Of course your shoulder hurts.” One doctor told me the problem was my pathetic upper body strength, so I got really into power yoga. I practiced my posture during my commute by closing my eyes and remembering the mantras I learned in class: “Lengthen the spine” and “squeeze the shoulder blades.” I got massages once a month. But alas, no matter how well I could propel myself from downward dog to chaturanga, no matter how much length I gave my spine or how much I was kneaded, when I looked in the mirror, I saw the same slouchy woman. And my shoulder still ached.
Good posture has always been more of a cultural ideal than anything else, “a litmus test for the healthy, modern body of the perfect citizen.”
Most of us take standing up straight for granted as basic health advice. We’re berated about it by our parents and teachers as tweens, and as adults in a capitalist society, we’re bombarded with the same messaging buried in the promises of proper ergonomics, standing desks, and “smart devices” that will ping your phone if you start to slouch. But as I learned the hard way, very little of this has anything to do with actual health or science.