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Tips from the Experts

Posturing for Good Posture


Poor posture is habitual. If you or your child demonstrates bad posture, it is highly likely that poor habits have manufactured it. We’re typically born with ‘normal’ curves in our spine that naturally place us in “good posture.”

Poor posture is habitual. If you or your child demonstrates bad posture, it is highly likely that poor habits have manufactured it. We’re typically born with ‘normal’ curves in our spine that naturally place us in “good posture.” That natural curve is negatively impacted over time due to static posturing and the fact that we and our children spend more and more time seated in a chair, learning in the classroom, working at the computer, watching television, doing homework or playing video games. It is only a matter of time before gravity begins pulling us forward creating a protruding head, flattened neck, rounded shoulders and slouched lower back.

Postural behaviors children learn today are habit forming and will affect them for life. Overtime, poor posture can increase a child’s chances of injuring the spine as is in the case of a neck or back strain or chronic pain. A more permanent consequence is the possibility of abnormal bone growth in the spine. This can occur when spinal bones change shape due to abnormal long-term pressures placed on them. Bones in the neck middle and lower back can grow abnormally if they have too much pressure placed in one direction. As the bones change their shape it becomes much more difficult to correct the problem.

Although most postural neck and back pain are reversible with habitual changes, sometimes it is structural in cases such as scoliosis. This can often run in the family and is usually detectable before or during adolescence.

How to help: Children do not often understand why posture matters because they rarely experience back pain, unlike many adults. Help your child recognize good posture and its impact on their overall growth and development. Lead by example!

We know that posture is impacted by a combination of factors including good muscle control, strength and flexibility. So, involve your children whenever possible in activities that promote good posture. Get your child moving: swimming, dance, karate, gymnastics, skating etc….. Becoming involved with sports activities helps develop muscular skills as well as self-confidence which is often a strong influence in posture.

Seating is often a significant factor leading to slouching. Make sure you child sits in an appropriately sized child size chair, or a pneumatically adjustable chair. Remember the “Rule of 90’s.” Ears directly over the tips of your shoulders, hips flexed to 90 degrees, knees bent to 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Be sure the computer screen is directly in front of your face. Also, try to maintain a slight arch in your back by rolling your hips slightly forward. Feel free to assist this by placing a towel roll in the arched area. You can also try having your child sit on a physioball when completing homework or working on the computer. The instability of the ball forces core stabilization and good postural maintenance.

Video Games: This is typically a time of especially poor posture. Have your child sit in a straight backed chair instead of slouched back in the couch or crossed-legged on the floor leaning forward as if they cannot see the screen that is four feet away. And not even a joke, but if they still have to lean forward…have their eyes checked. Also, create time limits of play if necessary to promote movement out of the poor posture.

For younger children who slouch when doing homework while performing writing tasks, tape the piece of paper in the proper position. This being directly in front of the child and straight. Mimic when necessary. As much as it may seem cruel to embarrass them, it can also be very effective in promoting your child to stand up or sit straight.

A couple simple exercises for your children to practice are:

  • Sitting scapular retractions and depressions - put your elbows in your back pockets by pinching your shoulder blades back while pushing your elbows back and down.
    • ‘Superman’ exercise - lay on stomach while lifting everything including your arms, legs, head and chest. Hold up while breathing for 3-5 seconds performing 2-3 set of 10 repetitions.

    Finally, fitting up your child for school can be difficult when it comes to backpacks. But a poorly fitting pack loaded with books can significantly impair posture. Picking the Backpack: Here are 7 tips on choosing the pack best for your child.

    1. A padded back will minimize direct pressure on the back.
    2. Wide padded shoulder straps which will not hinder circulation to the arms which may cause numbness and tingling.
    3. Waist and chest belts to transfer some weight from the back and shoulders to the trunk and pelvis.
    4. Multiple compartments to better distribute the weight in the backpack.
    5. Reflective material to enhance visibility at night.
    6. Lightweight backpack
    7. Correct Size selection of the pack is important as packs come in different sizes for different age children

    If you or someone you know suffers from pain or postural complications as described above, it is ill-advised to begin a new exercise program without consulting first with your Physician, a physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, chiropractor, physiatrist or other specialist who regularly treats pain. If you would like to consult a physical therapist about an ergonomic evaluation, contact your local physical therapy clinic.