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  • Dr. Brandon J. Van Seters, DC

Upright Posture: Opportunities & Challenges





Uniquely Human


Upright posture is uniquely a human phenomenon. In upright posture the skeletal system is placed in a vertical line with the head and torso above the hips and feet. Upright posture has placed specific biomechanical requirements on our skeletal system. Upright posture has drastically changed the center of gravity placing most of the body weight load on to the spine and discs. The spine developed a 'S' curve to help distribute this load and force similar to that of a spring. Two forward or extended curves in your neck & low back and a backward or flexed curve in your mid back.



Downside of Upright Posture


All the additional load placed on the spine no wonder back problems are so common; 80% of the population will experience back pain at least at one point in there life. Back pain is also the greatest cause of disability globally. Humans have increased prevalence of disc herniations compared to other primates. Upright posture has also been shown to accelerate vertebral and disc degeneration in rats. Upright posture also creates a plumbing issue for proper lymphatic and veinous drainage from the skull but we will get more into that in a later blog post.




Was it worth it?

Absolutely, despite the excess stress it has placed on the spine Upright posture has been extremely advantageous to humans. It has provided an improved visual vantage point of the environment. Most importantly it has allowed our upper limbs freedom from locomotion so they can be used for more sophisticated tasks. This alone could be responsible for the success of humans.



What to do about it?

Knowing that upright posture adds stress to the spine it is important to be proactive and take care of you spine.


1. Maintain proper alignment with Chiropractic care.

2. Strengthen your core with spinal stability exercises.

3. Proper lifting mechanics. When lifting objects first stiffen your spine and lift with your legs. Keep the object as close to the spine as possible to avoid adding excess load.

4. Be aware of how much time you spend sitting as this adds excess load specifically to the low back.




Bian Q, et al. Prolonged and repeated upright posture promotes bone formation in rat lumbar vertebrae. Spine. 2011; 36(6): E380-E387.


Bian Q, et al. Prolonged upright posture induces calcified hypertrophy in the cartilage endplate in rat lumbar spine. Spine. 2011; 36(24):2011-2020.


Buchbiner R, et al. Placing the global burden of low back pain in context. Best Pract Res Cl Rh. 2013; 27:575–589.


Kroker, P. The problem of remaining upright. BMJ. 1999; 319(7220):1300.


Liang QQ, et al. Prolonged upright posture induces degenerative changes in intervertebral discs in rat lumbar spine. Spine. 2008; 33(19):2052-2058.


Liang QQ, et al. Prolonged upright posture induces degenerative changes in intervertebral discs in rat cervical spine. Spine. 2011; 36(1): E14-E19.


Lovejoy CO. The natural history of human gait and posture. Part 1. The Spine. Gait & Posture.2007; 21(1):95-112.


Plomp KA, et al. The ancestral shape of hypothesis: an evolutionary explanation for the occurrence of intervertebral disc herniation in humans. BMC Evol Biol. 2015; 15:68.


Schmitt, D. Insights into the evolution of human bipedalism from experimental studies of humans and other primates. Journal of Experimental Biology. 2003; 206:1437-1448.

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