The Importance of Research

by falenas1081 min read4th Apr 201110 comments

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Well-beingPractical
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This is just a quick example of why it's always good to check the source material.

 

Cracked ran an article today about several things people are doing wrong, and the number one thing they listed was sitting.  According to a an experiment they cite, one researcher tested disk movement for people slouching, sitting up straight, and leaning back at a 135˚ angle.  They found that leaning back does the least damage to the spine.

Interested, I clicked on their link which sent me to this article from MSNBC, which among other things, says:

When strain is placed on the spine, the spinal disks start to move and misalign. At a 90-degree sitting position, this movement was most prominent.

With this, I was considered making a lifestyle change to slouching when using the computer, as leaning back isn't usually an option for serious work.  But, I still wanted to read more about the experiment.

Unfortunately, they didn't have the link to the actual paper.  A bit of googling led me to an article that actually had the experiment's methodology, which says that slouching was actually the worst position! 

It maintained that leaning back is best, but according to the results the 90˚ angle isn't that bad, especially since most of the other articles I found were implying that the advice to sit up straight is wrong.  Considering that people are usually slouching when the advice is given, sitting up is still an improvement.  This is especially true at places like dinner tables, where leaning back as suggested isn't really an option.

 

Moral of the story: Do research before changing personal habits, regardless of where the information comes from.

 

Note: Afterwards, I did a bit more googling to see which other news sources carried this story incorrectly.  The most prominent misinformation came from a Fox News article, who carried the following headline:

Study: Slouching Better for Back Than Sitting Up Straight

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Cracked is notorious for terrible and shoddy research.

You'd think it was some sort of comedy site rather than proper science journalism!

They do actually pride themselves on trying to get their facts straight (I couldn't find a link, but a recent article stated how they really do try not to BS people) - their favourite form of humour in list articles is the amazing truth - but they're not particularly robust at research, usually stopping at Wikipedia. So, yeah. Comedic truthiness as memetic hazard, made worse by the actual sincerity of the writers.

Actual news sites, however, can more reasonably be accused of an unacceptable degree of negligence. Ben Goldacre has started an initiative to get news sites to link to primary sources.

Actually, cracked.com is often surprisingly really good at finding really obscure research that I could never find from Wikipedia or any other source. They found an amazing article about deer that raided bird nests to get calcium, for example (http://www.cracked.com/article_19126_5-adorable-animals-that-are-turning-to-dark-side.html).

For another article, for example, they really managed to scour many obscure sources from google books.

Plus, it's often the best means of communicating research to other people who don't like reading science articles.

Yes, but that by no means exempts them from public opinion!

Also, the article may or may not be here.

This is based on modest amounts of information and a fair amount of theory. I do NOT recommend using your initial ideas to correct your posture.

I developed back aches when I tried to correct my posture, and a couple of people I know got backaches after years of self-directed posture correction.

Yes, I know, people get backaches, how do I know there was a causal connection?

Here comes the theory-- if you have bad posture, you're probably pretty numb. Your first idea of how to make a correction will be a guess based on ideas from the culture, not an attentive approach based on either detailed knowledge of the human body or sensitivity to your own body.

When you make your correction, you will be able to feel that you've made a change, and I think this can turn into a case of "something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done".

I recommend Feldenkrais method (I've gotten good results from Somatics (the fifteen minute morning sequence was great for my lower back) and Mindful Sponteneity (the moving while lying on a rolled blanket does more to release deep muscle tension than a lot of massages I've had), Alexander Technique, or careful thought and experimentation.

Part of the problem is that "posture" is a static image, but what people need is a style of sitting, standing and whatever which allows for easy movement.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

I recommend Ageless Spine, Lasting Health-- it's got a very sensible feedback system for improving posture and movement. The part I remember is moving your pelvis forward and backward and noticing what position makes your breathing easiest. This is an excellent feedback system for improvement. Possibly TMI, but I found it helped a lot to prevent constipation, something I never would have thought was a postural issue.

However, the author notes that this doesn't work for everyone, and at that point she recommends getting a teacher. I give a lot of credit to people who admit that their advice doesn't work for everyone.

She's got an updated version, but I don't know how different it is.

Uncommon Sensing](http://www.uncommonsensing.com/ offering one free Feldenkrais exercise (about forty minutes) per month. Not only are they good exercises (for the nervous system-- they aren't for challenging strength or endurance), but the one-a-month schedule eliminates the impediment of having to choose an exercise from the many available. One of them increased my hip mobility enough so that getting up on a bar stool became easy-- I'm very short, and this is the first that bar stools haven't been an annoyance.

Thanks for asking.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

Thanks for the update! :)

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I had a similar experience when I heard of this experiment, but when it was mentioned on reddit a few weeks back the link to the original research was included. I remember reading it and wondering if I had been using the word slouch wrong all of my life or if people were misrepresenting the article completely.