Added on April 19, 2017
At 7 years old, days consist of laying on the floor watching the television, sitting slumped in the back of the classroom to not get called on, ignoring your mother's pokes in the back to sit up straight at dinner, and pushing off that injury you got in that basketball game you played two weeks ago.
At 45 years old, you've been experiencing a pinching, radiating, numbing pain that travels from your neck all the way down to the tips of your fingers for the past two years. While sitting in the stands watching your son make a touchdown, you wonder if the pain will ever go away. I don't think I tweaked my neck or anything, you think to yourself. Maybe it was the way I've been sleeping, you ponder as you try to shake the sensation out of your hand. As the list of possibilities come to an end, you flashback to the years you slumped over your desk doing your homework as a kid and your mother's voice echoes through your memory, "you'll have a hunchback for the rest of your life!"
Maybe mom was on to something. New research suggests that improving your posture during childhood (7-12 years old) could be the best preventive measure for developing spinal disorders and chronic back pain as an adult. As our skeletal system develops from infancy, through puberty, into early adulthood, our bones transform to be strong and solid with the help of our diet and activity level. As children, bones are pliable; meaning good and bad patterns of movement will potentially progress with an individual their entire life. Our spinal posture typically depends on our gender, body mass index (BMI), as well as how strong/weak our postural muscles are.
There are three common dysfunctional postural patterns that individuals are classified under. They are kyphosis-lordosis posture, flat-back posture, and sway-back posture. Research has shown that the majority of men and boys fall into sway-back posture while girls and women are consistent with kyphotic-lordotic posture. It is important to recognize that these exaggerated patterns are established even before puberty. This leads us to the question: could early intervention prevent me from a lifetime of pain, doctor visits, and medical bills?
Today, children are handed phones, tablets, and laptops that discourage good posture. On average, children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend about 6 hours per day hunched over their phones. As the amount of time behind a screen increases, the activity level decreases tremendously, instilling the habit of a sedentary lifestyle. It is encouraged that children and young adults spend at least half an hour per day doing physical activity. In addition to screen time and decreased activity level, wearing heavy backpacks improperly and sitting in a poorly structured desk for prolonged periods of time is deterring any chance of obtaining perfect posture during childhood.
1. Have your child participate on a recreational/organized sports team.
2. Take away the technology for a considerable amount of time in the day to encourage physical activity and going outside.
3. Ergonomics: If your child must be on a computer, laptop, or tablet, make sure their back is supported, feet are contacting the floor, and the screen is at eye level.
4. Core strengthening and stabilization: floor time, sit ups, planks, and leg lifts will activate the muscles in the back that are responsible for fine postural adjustments.
5. Yoga for kids: if the weather is not nice enough to go outside, the following poses will be fun to do together for relaxation and stretching those tense muscles.
6. Have a physical therapist analyze your child's postural pattern for a more personalized flexibility, strengthening, and balance program to perform several times per week.
1. Go to a physical therapist to have a therapeutic exercise program designed to correct muscle imbalances and normalize movement patterns.
2. Prolonged stretching throughout the day:
3. Pilates: The emphasis of Pilates is to maintain a neutral spine throughout all exercises performed, increasing structural stability
4. Strengthening weak and lengthened muscles a little bit at a time. Too much strengthening too soon should be avoided to prevent compensations and further injury.
5. Simply laying down and pulling your belly button towards your spine and holding in order to engage your core.
Recognizing poor posture throughout your child's day is the first step to preventing a lifetime of pain, doctor visits, and medical bills. Growing up is not easy and becoming an adult is a difficult transition, but do not allow pain to be a normal part of aging. With just a few helpful tips, we can allow our kids to live their lives to the fullest without growing pains that last a life time.
Maggie Hanna, SPT
1. Defining sagittal standing posture in school aged girls and boys. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27758964?dopt=AbstractPlus.
2. Gender differences in sagittal standing alignment before pubertal peak growth: the importance of subclassification and implications for spinopelvic loading. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842204/.
3. Campbell SK., Vander Linden DW., Palisano RJ. Physical Therapy for Children. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MS: Saunders Elsevier; 2006.
4. Dutton M. Dutton's Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, and Intervention. 3rd ed. Pittsburgh, PA: McGraw-Hill; 2012.
5. Teens spend a 'mind-boggling' 9 hours a day using media, report says. http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/.
6. Children and adolescents with low back pain: a descriptive study of physical examination and outcome measurement. http://www.jospt.org/doi/pdf/10.2519/jospt.2003.33.9.513?code=jospt-site.