Often times in my line of work I feel like the posture police. One of the first things that I notice about someone when I enter a treatment room in my office is how they are sitting. I often see parents and children displaying the same poor postures.
What exactly is posture?
Posture is a motor habit, created by the way the muscles contract to keep the body in an upright or seated position. Posture is an indicator of the mechanical efficacy of the body to know where it is in space, as well as muscular balance and neural muscular coordination. The posture of the body changes continuously throughout the lifetime with the biggest challenge for posture during periods of rapid growth. In these periods, the body tries to restore balance, and during this time postural deviations can emerge. Posture has an impact on how gravity is acting on the tissues of the body. With good posture, the force of gravity distributes down through the bony elements, the bones of the spine, the long bone in the legs, and through the joints. If posture is not properly aligned, more force is distributed through the soft tissues along with the muscles and ligaments surrounding the bones.
Effects of Poor Posture
As our society has modernized, a number of the physical demands that were required of us have changed. This change has made us more sedentary and we spend more time in a seated position. This is demonstrated in time spent playing video games, screen time, sitting at desks all day in school. This has led to weakening of the entire muscular system, influencing the spinal column. One of the primary causes of poor posture in children is muscle weakness of the back, chest, or abdominal region. When children are growing at a fast rate, weakness can lead to permanent postural disorders. Lack of physical activity is one of the biggest risk factors. Studies have found that children who do not participate in physical activity have a higher risk of postural issues. Excess body weight it also a risk factor, with added weight it changes the centre of gravity in the body. To compensate for this change in centre of gravity the body changes its posture to keep the centre of gravity within the body’s base of support. Carrying a backpack on one shoulder and improper footwear also effect posture.
What Can We do to Improve Posture in Your Child?
If we can have an impact on improving children’s posture, it can have long-term benefits for their health, and decrease the potential degeneration and pain they might experience.
Poor posture will also have an impact on the organs of the body and it can have an effect on lung capacity. Keeping the ideal weight by ensuring proper nutrition through eating a balanced diet can be the first step to helping your child have good posture. Making sure that your child participates in physical activity, not necessarily organized sports, but time outside climbing, running, jumping, developing their musculature through play. Making sure your child takes time to walk, consider if possible walking to the store, school rather then driving. The short of it is being active helps keep a god body weight and also develop the muscles essential for good posture.
Watch your child's activities at home that can cause slouching posture. Examples include: Limit time spent in front of the television/screens/video games and provide a proper place to do homework, seated upright at a table, making sure to take breaks and move around every 20 to 30 minutes. (Standing is also great way to do homework as it stimulates the brain, facilitating the ability to learn).
When choosing a backpack ensure it has two straps and encourage your child to use both straps. Weight of the backpack should be considered, however time spent wearing the backpack has a larger impact on posture, so minimize long duration of backpack use.
One other important factor to your child’s posture is your own posture. Children learn many habits from their parents both good and bad, one of them can be postural habits. If you are always slouching in front of your child, they will learn to sit in the same way. If you are a new parent or expecting, correct your posture before your children learn it from you.
If you notice your child exhibiting poor posture, or any asymmetry in their posture vis-a-vi hunching over when seated, or have one shoulder blade more prominent then the other, have them checked by someone who specializes in the musculoskeletal system. In adolescents scoliosis can being to show up, a curvature or rotation of the spine. It is important to monitor this as it can progress quickly in adolescence.
Activity Fact: Kids in North America spend 6 to 8 hours a day in sedentary postures. This has a direct effect on their posture. Get your children up and active!