Good child, bad posture
Your posture can be defined as the way in which you hold yourself. Good posture ensures that all of your bones and joints are aligned properly and prevents excessive strain on the muscles. Bad posture is most commonly associated with back pain, and other problems, including pain in the neck, shoulders and hips, headaches, fatigue and weakened muscles. It can also make you look shorter than you are and it may also give people the impression that you are bored or disinterested.
Posture is especially important for growing kids, because their bodies are in the ‘growth’ phase. Everyone’s spine has a set of natural curves, but aches and pains arise when those curves exceed what your body is used to. Unfortunately, modern living means we are using smart phones, tablets and computers a lot more than we used to, and certainly more than we should. One of the concepts our Osteopathic founder A. T. Still identified is that “Structure and Function are reciprocally inter-related”. I.e.: How you use your body determines how it develops. Good ‘Structure’ = Good ‘Function’ (happy, healthy, well-functioning (good movement, good health, muscles, joints, ligaments) no / low pain)
Here are some top tips for ensuring your child develops good posture.
1) Buy a supportive chair If your child spends a lot of time sitting at a desk for work or study purposes or because they enjoy playing computer games or using the Internet, investing in a good chair will make a massive difference. A good chair should have a high back to support the entire length of the back and additional lumbar support for the lower back (this is usually built-in). It is also helpful to have adjustable height and arms, as this enables you to sit in a comfortable position when typing or playing a game.
2) Get used to good habits Teaching kids about standing ‘tall and straight’ from a young age will increase their awareness of slouching, but it is hard to control. Probably teaching them to sit comfortably is a good start – get a cushion to use as a back rest, and make sure they are supported wherever they sit. Having a cushion handy for behind their heads is good too, if they are laying down playing a game on a bean bag.
3) Use ‘Props’ Get your teen to use cushions to ‘prop’ their tablet up, to save their forearms getting a strain. Even if the tablet is a light version, it gets heavy after a short while.How heavy is a glass of water? It depends on how long you have to hold it for. If you imagine holding a glass of water out straight in front of you, it isn’t heavy to start with, but if you had to hold it for 30 minutes (which passes VERY quickly in ‘game time’ or while writing an assignment) it gets very heavy, very quickly. This is what happens to the poor muscles of the back, neck and shoulders, so having ‘props’ can be really helpful.
4) Encourage Exercise & Stretching Exercise has a range of benefits for people of all ages generally, that is well known. And you could make a rule that 30 minutes ‘screen time’ means they must do 30 minutes of activity time afterwards (i.e Non-sitting / standing) Swimming is especially good, as rowing as it builds up the muscles of the back which aren’t used while sitting / standing slouched for a period of time. Easy ‘break-time’ stretches that can be used by people at work, or teenagers studying for exams / doing home-work are:
Shoulder rolls (sit up straight first)
Upper back arches with arms over head
Chest stretches with hands clasped together behind their backs
5) ‘Laptops’ – bad name, bad news Laptops should NEVER be used on their laps!! Buy an adjustable laptop table so your child doesn’t have to bend forward quite so much to use it. Having the screen and keyboard elevated can reduce the strain significantly. We can also give you more specific exercises to do with a piece of stretchy material called a Theraband, but usually if you need specific correctional exercises, your body is at a stage where it cannot physically perform the movements it needs to.
Talk to one of our Osteopaths if you are worried that your childmight be at this stage, and we can set your mind at ease. The bodies of kids / Teens are easy to change quite quickly, and you will be surprised at the difference a little bit of treatment can make.
By Holly Royal (B.Ost) Principal Osteopath
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