Children's posture

One of the tasks of being a dad is, I believe, to continually nag your teenager about their posture. However I have discovered that I am probably going the wrong way about it making them “hate” me even more than usual when I go on about their posture. But I firmly believe that we need to watch our teenagers and their backs - well I would, wouldn´t I, being an osteopath who has a vested interest. The problem is that adolescents do not understand why good posture is important as they rarely experience back pain. But, I believe, we are creating major problem for the future. There is some research that suggests that back pain becomes four more times likely as an adult should you have pain when young.

What I do know is that improving your siblings posture can have far reaching benefits in that they are less likely to have muscular strains or muscles shortening leading to a person possibly shrinking! and having abnormal joint problems when they are older. Not only this,a teenager with poor posture can give an impression of being less confident. Not ideal if they are applying for a job.

Identify a good sitting position

So what can you do about it? The best thing in my opinion is to identify a good sitting position and try to do it yourself. It is not a case of don´t do what I do but do what I say. Children learn by imitating their elders and betters. So point out the posture of others (not too often) and make sure your own posture is correct. What this means is that you sit with your buttocks and back against the back of the chair with the shoulders pulled back and down. Sometimes a lumbar support can help maintain the normal three curves in your back. Feet should be flat on the floor and the knees slightly lower than the hips. If looking at a screen this should be at eye-level. The chair should be pulled up close to the desk.

Another problem is that children spend a large amount of time sitting at a desk at school which is flat which can cause a rounding of shoulders and the head to be held out in front of him/her which could contribute to headaches or neck aches at a later stage. Suggest to your child that they should try not to hunch over their work.

When standing they should keep their weight evenly spread over both feet, keeping their head up and looking straight in front of them with the shoulders back and down. I often tell my patients that they should imagine they are being lifted upwards by a piece of string attached to their head.

Another area of concern is the amount of time your beloved teen spends on the laptop usually sitting on the bed hunched over. Well, what you can do, is to buy a laptop stand and try to encourage them to spend only up to 20 minutes at a time rather than hours playing a video game or whatever. Already doctors are finding children with injuries to their thumb from repetitive use of the “fire” button. Suggest thaty the spend a little time stretching or at the least spend some time moving around and that they don´t play sitting on the bed with the laptop resting on their lap.

An indicator that something is structurally wrong

A word of warning here in that poor posture can be an indicator that something is structurally wrong and could be a case of scoliosis which is where the spine curves sideways more than it should. This normally happens at puberty when the skeleton grows but the muscles can´t keep up. What is important is that the problem is diagnosed early on with the result that treatment can be started early. If in doubt take your adolescent to a specialist for a proper diagnosis. An osteopath should be able to offer some tips and strategies to help improve your adolescent´s posture - your teen might well listen to them a little more than you.

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