Eli5 Why does bad posture feel so…. good.



Eli5 Why does bad posture feel so…. good.

In: Biology

Basically, you are not using your muscles as much. With good posture, your muscles are active keeping your spine aligned. This means that you don’t put strain on the ligaments in your back, but obviously it requires constant adjustment by your muscles.

When you relax your muscles you’ll get more strain on your spine. You will feel more relaxed the first minute or so, but you’ll eventually become more tired and of course develop back problems over time.

EDIT: I probably gave a wrong impression. Bad posture puts strain on both the ligaments *and* the muscles in your back. I originally said it put strain on the spine. What I meant to convey is that good posture requires constant adjustment from a lot of muscles in your back. (This should happen subconsciously)

It’s not really that those muscles get tired because of over use, it’s just that it’s easier to not use them because we are inherently lazy. However good posture, like all habits, become easier over time. Back and core exercise also helps.

I should also add that the goal of these muscles is about getting your weight above your spine. The spine was made to be compressed, not stretched.

EDIT 2: Clarity

I’m not a doctor or kinesthesiologist or anything like that, just someone who works hard to try to take care of my body.

Good posture requires bracing of your abdominal muscles so when you have bad posture you are fully relaxing your core.

Unfortunately bracing your core muscles also keeps your spine and neck aligned so relaxing too long (like consistently bad posture when sitting/standing) can cause back/neck pain.

Because “bad posture” isn’t actually bad. There are decades of research now showing that forced upright posture (what people think good posture is) doesn’t correlate with reduced pain or injury, and that slumping generally doesn’t correlate with increased pain or increased injury rates. It feels better because you’re not working so hard and fatiguing muscles that don’t need to work for you to be functional and upright. Generally speaking, we need to redefine good posture to be what is sustainable and feels good to the individual, instead of being overly prescriptive about position and alignment.

Not a doctor, but someone who’s had a lot of physical therapy; here’s my understanding of why this happens.

Holding your body in place to do any activity, whether it’s standing up straight or sitting up for work or walking or doing a sport or whatever, requires the use of muscles (obviously). If the “correct” muscles for doing that thing are weak, other muscles jump in to compensate, but this can lead to problems like soreness, body parts not being at a healthy angle to one another, or injuries being more likely.

A lot of these muscles are stabilizing muscles we never see, feel, or think about until something goes wrong.

A recent example for me is that I was having knee pain, and my physical therapist told me to work on strengthening my hip adductor and abductor muscles, because even though it’s a different body part the overall way I was holding my leg was affected by the weak hip muscles and it was putting excessive strain on the knees.

Another example is that low back pain can be caused by any number of muscles being weak or inflexible, from your shoulders to your abs to your back muscles to your hips to your glutes. The low back ends up either picking up the slack and doing extra work, or being at an angle it shouldn’t as a result of not being supported. But because the low back is tired out by all this, it feels like a relief to hunch over or stand at a weird angle, when what you need to resolve the problem long term is to improve your core strength and stretch more. Which is counterintuitive because it can feel more uncomfortable or even painful at first to do those exercises and stretches, but doing them regularly improves your overall back health.

Anyway, my primary recommendation is to work with a physical therapist who’ll see you on an ongoing basis and teach you exercises and stretches to help with the situation, but if you can’t do that or want to try solving the problem on your own first, try looking up “core stabilizing exercises” (not crunches! Those are for people who want to look like they have abs but they’re too targeted for this) and some stretches for whatever body part feels sore or overtired, and spend 5-10 minutes a day doing those exercises and stretches.

You can probably see the answer here, but I want to tell you not to slouch on purpose. It is better to make a habit of standing/sitting up straight. Ill offer my personal experience as a reason why.

I never stood up straight as a kid. Eventually, I developed this massive hunch. Besides bullying, there was an unimaginable physical pain to deal with when I got home. It hurt like hell and when I went to a doctor for it, I was recommended a physical therapy that would make the pain go away or a surgery, that would run titanium rods down the length of my spine. I could barely move for months. Worst pain Ive ever felt in my life, even to now. Its now a few years later and the pain subsided(mostly, its a shell of the pain I felt then. In fact its mostly discomfort) but I cant bend my back and the rods will be in there for the rest of my life.

TL; DR Dont slouch please. It hurts like hell.

Your body is smart.

It recognizes your normal posture, and adapts to make it easier for you to maintain that posture — whether it’s “good” or “bad” posture, your body doesn’t care. It’s only concerned with making it efficient and comfortable for you to maintain your normal posture.

Posture is habitual, and like any habit it takes some amount of initial effort to retrain — before eventually a new habit replaces the old.

Maybe observe how very small children sit and stand – for the most part they have wonderfully balanced posture. When they see the adults around them, have to use desks and chairs that don’t fit them, or spend lots of time with a screen – that’s when their posture starts looking like everyone else’s – pretty poor.

Considering that bad posture can create tension, weak movement, and poor breathing, it doesn’t feel “good” – it’s just what you’re used to. When you’re trying to take on a habit, it won’t feel good at all until your body relearns how to do things.

People see posture as being some static thing – then they try to force a posture on themselves. It’s like trying to play statue – it’s pretty tiring.

It takes a lot of self-observation to change a movement habit, and most people have to feel pain and tension, or suddenly realize they’ve been holding their breath as they’re working (did you have to take breath right then?), before they change their position.

(I’ve been practicing Alexander Technique for a few years now, so I take posture pretty seriously. It’s not for everyone, but I think people who want to improve their posture should look into a movement or somatic practice that jives with their personality. Sadly, many people are divorced from their bodies.)


If you ask somebody with habitually good posture whether or not they are comfortable, they’ll say yes.

What happens with people with “bad” posture try to sit up straight is not necessarily “good.” There’s a lot that goes into “good” posture, and it doesn’t come immediately. We’ve all heard the basic advice “straight spine, pretend there is a string attached to your head pulling you up, keep your feet flat on the floor,” but it’s much more complicated than that.

For example – the tilting of your hips is important to rounding or arching your lower back. You want to be balanced in the middle – not too far forward or backwards. Your shoulders are “supposed” to sit in a neutral position and be held there by a girdle of balanced muscles… but what happens if some of those muscles are tight and strong and pull too hard, or there are some that are loose and weak and don’t pull hard enough? You can try to force your shoulders into place, but eventually the weak muscles will get tired and you’ll revert back to where you started.

Posture (and really, movement) is a long term game. It takes months and years to change, and it changes with many factors. The biggest (in my opinion) is exercise. Regularly strengthening, moving, and using your body in a way designed to target imbalances will cause lasting change. Partly it’s the process of continual reminders – consistently fixing and adjusting when you realize there’s something bad happening.

Another overlooked aspect of posture is culture. It’s a huge deal. Try sitting around with your friends who are all slouched over on the couch while you maintain a perfectly straight spine. You’ll get called out on it, there’s pressure to sit and act the same way as everybody else. This is true for groups with “good” posture as well. Different cultures around the world have different postures, to some degree.

just a note, having core strength as well as shoulder strength makes good posture feel medium-good and in a lot of cases makes it POSSIBLE.

Because your body is used to it. Over time bad posture hurts. Get good posture, keep good posture and youll be feeling much better later in life.

Poor posture being bad is a myth that has been debunked by many different studies. We naturally avoid the types of bad posture that are actually harmful, and posture practises to “fix” bad posture while shown to have significant improvement in your posture have also shown to do absolutely nothing for the pain usually attributed to “poor posture”.

Read this for more (it also includes citations to studies) https://www.painscience.com/articles/posture.php#sec_matter

It will catch up to you.

Sincerely, 26 and getting over a back injury with newfound appreciation for good posture and listening to your body.

As others have pointed out already, it feels good because it’s usually the most economic way for your body to be. Forcing yourself to be in ‘good posture’ takes more muscles and more energy, so it feels awkward. Also ‘bad posture’ isn’t proven to be bad in any way by science so you shouldn’t worry about it too much.

In my understanding, which doesn’t go much further than a 5 year olds.
Humans adapt. We’ve adapted to the constant sitting and typing, or just sitting in general.
If we sat constantly, we’d be comfortable when slouched forward.
It’s the standing up the issue, we want to revert back to what we’ve adapted to, sitting. When we stand, we have to use muscles that weren’t used previously.
Good posture is hard

Smoking DMT makes me really feel my posture and automatically sit upright and put everyhting in the correct position. It’s only then when I really f*eel* my posture.

For the same reason why staying in shape, eating healthy, or a lot of generally good things might be hard for a lot of people: it takes work and we’re often very lazy and can’t be bothered hahah.. if feels good to eat junk food (until you’re a certain age lol) and do various other things, but in the long run, it’s not the best for your body.

I just want to add that, there’s a lot of misinformation in this thread about how bad posture, weak muscles or inflexible muscles cause back pain, this is not true.

For me it absolutely doesn’t. I have very weak back muscles and when I sit down, my back bends weirdly which makes my shoulder muscles hurt sometimes. My spine is also bend to the left which gets really hurtful sometimes and when sitting down I have to activately sitting upright wich is very uncomfortable and exhausting and when I stand upright I have a sway back due to my weak back muscles. So Idk what’s wrong with your posture but for me it feels anything but good.