Worried about your child’s posture? New research indicates that you should be. Here’s what you can do to help your child avoid a lifetime of pain.
The rates of back pain are on the rise for children1 as well as adults despite the fact that we have more health professionals2, more health gadgets, more health information and more treatments, therapies, training programs and health promotions than ever before.
In fact, our physical health problems only seem to be worsening, with a recent UK study3 showing that up to 10% of 10 year old children have signs associated with bad backs and 9% already having at least one degenerative disc.
Something has changed! Whilst the researcher acknowledged that lugging heavy school bags, watching TV, playing video games and poor diets (obesity) have always had adverse effects on physical health, it is now thought that there is another factor at play with texting and excessive tablet use now being implicated.
In 2013, some 1.91 trillion text messages were sent in the US, according to CTIA, The Wireless Association4 Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over their devices, which amounts to 700 to 1,400 hours per year that they are exerting this stress on their spines. School children may be even worse off, spending an additional 5,000 hours in this position, according to the study.
The term “text neck” has been coined to describe a group of physical conditions associated with excessive use of smart phones and tablets.
New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj performed a study to assess the incremental effects of a forward-tilted head posture on the neck. He concluded that:
“Text neck” may lead to early spinal degeneration as excessive loading of the small bones, joints, muscles, nerves of the neck can result in muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated discs and abnormalities to the neck’s natural curvature.5 This forward neck posture has also been linked to headaches, neurological problems and heart disease.
Others claim that the pressure on your neck and upper back doubles with every 2-3 centimetres of forward head tilt.6
As your head weighs about 4.5 to 5.5 kilograms and is balanced on two tiny joints of the first neck bone, it acts as a weight and cantilever on top of a highly mobile neck. Normally, the stresses that the weight of the head places upon the neck and upper back is reduced by the fact that the neck moves over 600 times an hour. However, if movements become repetitive or slouched postures are maintained for prolonged periods of time, stresses on the structures of the neck and back build up and eventually lead to stiffness and pain.
Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of excessive tablet and smart phone use. The positions and movements that young people “practise” are likely to become lifelong habits. If young people spend their time in slouched postures then not only they will tend to default to those postures but as their young bodies grow, all their body structures and tissues will adapt to these positions, further reinforcing these habits and making them difficult if not impossible to correct without intensive treatment and training
Posture is More Than Just Physical
Posture has been shown to have powerful effect on your entire health and wellbeing, not only affecting your physical health but also influencing your thoughts, feelings, actions as well as how others perceive you. Posture can even affect your memory recall.7
“When sitting in a collapsed position and looking downward, participants in a study found it much easier to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories, than empowering, positive memories.
When sitting upright and looking upward, it was difficult and for many of the participants nearly impossible to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories and easier to recall empowering, positive memories...
Sitting up straight helps increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and according to some accounts, by up to 40 percent.”
Some of the wide ranging detrimental effects of poor posture include:
• Shoulder, neck and back pain;
• Degenerative disc disease;
• Tension headaches8;
• Excessive forward curvature (kyphosis) of your upper back;
• Depression, increased stress and diminished levels of energy9;
• Decreased libido10;
• Digestive issues such as constipation, acid reflux and hernias11;
• Restricted breathing;
• Cardiovascular irregularities (related to vagus nerve irritation)12,13
The Best Cure for Your Posture
The best cure for postural problems is to avoid poor positioning and movement patterns in the first place. This means being aware of maintaining good posture by standing up straight, sitting up straight up (and/ with a lumbar roll cushion in the small of your back) and moving from position to position without dropping your chest.
Beyond this, it means maintaining full mobility of all your joints as well as the strength of all your muscles especially in the opposite direction of the positions and movements that you perform routinely on a daily basis.
It also means not staying for too long in one position, but rather moving from one position to another at least every 30 minutes.
Tips for maintaining good posture
1. Use your eyes. When operating electronic devices, practice looking down at your device with only your eyes, instead of bending your neck—and try holding your device up higher. If you wear glasses, make sure your prescription is current.
2. Stand up as much as possible. You might want to experiment with a stand-up desk. You certainly don’t need to stand all day long but you are likely far better off standing as your posture and your likelihood of movement tends to improve. If you cannot work standing up, make an effort to interrupt your sitting frequently throughout the day. Stand up and walk when taking phone calls. It will help you feel better, have more energy and be more creative as well..
3. Walk more. Wear a fitness tracker and set a goal of walking 7,000 to 10,000 steps each day, which is more than eight kilometres. While you could probably walk this distance all at once, it’s best to spread it out evenly throughout the day, as much as your schedule will allow. Get in the habit of using the stairs and parking further away from entrances.
4. Take 30- to 60-second exercise breaks. Every 30 minutes, stretch gently into the opposite direction from the position that you have been in. If you have been sitting, this might mean stretching backwards over the back of a chair or standing up with your hands on your buttock and leaning backwards. Aim to hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds and do 5 of them at a time.
5. Anti-gravity Strength Training. Strengthen the muscles which move your body into the opposite direction of the positions and movements that you perform routinely. Doing this will help to relieve stress on body tissues and structures, restore joint mobility, correct muscle imbalances as well as build strength and endurance so that you can maintain an upright posture. To learn more about this, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994);
6. Posture Training. The only way to achieve permanent results is to permanently correct posture and movement habits. To do this takes intense training, involving freeing up stiff joints, supporting and strengthening weak muscles whilst preventing the adoption of faulty postures and movement patterns with tape or bracing.
Research shows that to create a habit takes about 300-500 repetitions, but to correct a faulty habit takes about 3,000-5,000 repetitions or about 4-6 weeks of training. If correct postures and movement patterns are achieved, the benefit is a lifelong reduction in mechanical pain and problems.
However, the opposite is also true. If children start off with poor postures and movement patterns, they are more likely to suffer from physical, psychological, cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive problems for the rest of their lives.
This is why it is so important that children be shown correct posture and movement and be taught the detrimental effects of bad posture. Correcting your child’s posture and movements early will profoundly change their lives forever. If you notice your child is stooping or you have any concerns about their posture, please get this checked. It might just save them from a life of pain and misery.
Be Bodywise and enjoy the best of health.
For a FREE posture check and advice, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994)
1 BMC Pediatr January 2013 Surg Technol Int. November 2014 (full text)
2 Pattern Movements. A Neurodevelopmental Approach to Conditioning. Correspondence Course. Paul Chek. 2003 Surg Technol Int. November 2014 (Pub Med)
3 Daily Mail November 6, 2014
4 Fox News August 15, 2014
5 Washington Post November 20, 2014
6 CNN September 20, 2012 The Atlantic November 25, 2014
7 Medical Daily June 24, 2014
9 New York Times September 19, 2014
11 Biofeedback Fall 2012
12 Medical Daily September 23, 2014
13 Livestrong February 6, 2014
15 Life Offbeat November 11, 2013
16 J Amer Coll Cardiol June 2001
17 Diabetologia November 2012
18 WebMD October 15, 2012
19 Br J Sports Med 2009