Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Spinal curvature chaos

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Anatomical illustration of a side view of the spine with the lumbar curvature highlight and labelled “lordosis.”
We rarely stand quite the same way twice in a row … so good luck identifying a poor posture. In a 2018 experiment, Schmidt measured and re-measured lumbar spinal curvature (lordosis) in hundreds of people using a handy curve-o-meter, and found that it changed from one test to the next to a surprising degree … and continued to do so with repeat tests. Measure a spine five times in a row, get five results!

And there was no difference between spinal position in 350 people versus 80 with with back pain. And there was also no difference between athletes and non-athletes. Age, gender, height, and weight made no difference either. In everyone, standing posture was “highly individual and poorly reproducible.” Which is one major reason why posture assessments is just nonsense. It’s unreliable even using an objective measuring gadget — never mind when you introduce the biased eyeballing of a trainer or massage therapist looking for postural trouble to shoot.

See for a more detailed analysis. And I’ve now cited this one in my posture article and my back pain book.