Children’s week provides an amazing time to think about the health of our children. In this day and age we have increasing concerns with posture and chronic stress, and there may be a link you aren’t aware of.
Over the last few years we have seen an increase in screen usage by all children. In younger primary students we now see the use of iPad’s as regular in classroom activities, and much homework is beginning to shift to apps that we download and use at home. The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne conducted a survey of parents and found some concerning characteristics around screen time (https://www.rchpoll.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ACHP-Poll7_Detailed-Report-June21.pdf), which scarily found that almost all (94%) of Australian teenagers and two-thirds (67%) of primary school-aged children and over a third (36%) of preschoolers have their own mobile screen-based device.
This increase in screen time has considerably impacted on posture concerns in children. If you take a mental picture of your child using a screen, how are they positioned. Slumped forward in a chair with their neck bent all the way forward. We are seeing presentations as young as 3 and 4 with children with postural changes attributable to lack of physical activity and screen time usage. The World Health Organisation recommends no screen time for children younger than 1, less than one hour for 2-4 year olds, and no more than 2 hours per day until 12 (https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-healthy-children-need-to-sit-less-and-play-more).
We know that the curve in our neck should allow our ears to be positioned above our shoulders, and our eyes to be level with the horizon. Our shoulders should be level and our shoulder blades should be sitting evenly against our ribs at the back, without one side protruding further than another. But more than these postural concerns, there are also some other issues that we need to be aware of
Postural Kyphosis - muscles and bones can get used to being hunched, which leads to a rounded back and shoulders. Exercise and great posture helps with this, but sometimes we need a check up with a chiropractor to assess.
Poor Balance - long term changes to the posture of the child through the spine may impact motor skills and balance (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2331205X.2018.1503778)
Fatigue - slouching reduces lung capacity and partially the depth of respiration, meaning the body may not be getting its full oxygen loading. (https://www.thebreatheffect.com/posture-breathing-physiological-effects/)
Body Pains - we often see presentations of more ‘adult’ symptoms, such as headaches and back pain in younger children, as we see more changes with posture.
Decreased Self Esteem - when we are lacking in self-confidence we slump forward, and we know that the uber-confident stand tall and proud. Research tells us that people with mild-moderate depressive symptoms have slumped posture, that upright posture can reduce fatigue and increase a high arousal positive affect (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.07.015)
The great news is there are plenty of things we can work with our children and our teens to help their posture and their health to improve.
Practice makes Perfect - offer gentle corrections and solution to posture by teaching them what it fees like to hold appropriately. You can show them pictures you take of them when they aren’t paying attention and when they are, and even practice some deep breathing in a great posture so they gain some better body awareness of how it ‘feels’.
Stand up - that’s right standing up when they’ve been on their device (especially a laptop) for a period of time is a great way to have a ‘brain-break’. Encourage them to stand and move to reducing strain on their neck, and even throw their arms about and have a little wiggle. Even better would be to set up their desk at home in a stand/sit option (available as an add-on at the office stores in town), to allow them to alter posture as they study.
Eye level - that’s right, holding that phone or device at eye level is key to helping our curve. For younger kids, getting them to lie on their stomach on the floor with the device held by their hands in front of them is a great way of encouraging healthy spinal curves and better posture.
Take Regular Breaks - turn off the wifi in the house, leave the electronic behind and get outside in nature. These things really help the brain to function better. You can even get amazing apps on devices now that switch them off automatically at a specific time from beginning of work.
Listen to your Child’s body - if they are complaining that something isn’t right, then they may just need a check up to ensure that everything is functioning well. Headaches, lack of concentration, sore arms and sore between the shoulder blades are common things we see at innate chiropractic resulting from this poor posture.
Postural changes indicated early in life can also be an indicator of altered development and are worth getting checked out. In our younger children elements such as head tilted to one side, bottom shuffling, one leg crawling or scoot crawling, or even skipping crawling can be indicators of altered motor control of the system.
If your child or teen is complaining of poor posture, or has some of the signs mentioned above, then a comprehensive check up at Innate Chiropractic may be worthwhile. Dr. Alison Young has completed her 5 year undergraduate Chiropractic Degree in Melbourne (2002), and has completed a further Masters in Chiropractic Pediatrics at the University of Wales in the UK (2011). She has 17 years of experience in working with children and families, and loves the opportunity to check kids, and help them thrive through their development, rather than just surviving it. She conducts a thorough neurological, orthopaediac, postural and chiropractic examination on all ages, and loves to connect brains to bodies and allow the innate or inborn ability of children to grow and develop to be at its very best.