“Sit up straight” is more than just a motherly recommendation. Posture is the position in which a person holds their body. Keeping your body in good alignment is important for multiple reasons. “Poor” posture commonly looks like someone is slumped and rounded forward and worse; bowing their head down as well. This posture can affect not only your spine (neck, mid, and low back), but also your jaw, shoulders, and breathing. We are starting to see younger and younger patients in Physical Therapy with neck, jaw, and back pain. We can help prevent most of that with a little attention to posture.
“Posture problems kick in around the 5th grade,” according to Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get It Straight! It is important that we as parents are aware of this and help our children develop healthy posture habits and awareness of their bodies. Children have access to computers and hand held devices now more than ever. How we hold these devices and ourselves can impact our posture. The location your child does their homework can impact alignment as well. It is important that we model good posture for our children and encourage them to do the same.
Help your child find and use a good location for homework; slumped in their bed is not a good spot. Ideally, they would be seated at a desk or table; with ears, shoulders, and hips in line with one another, and hips, knees, and ankles bent to 90* angles, with feet supported. If they are reading; help them find something to prop their book or tablet up at an angle that supports the above posture.
Take time in your day to reset your posture and teach your child to do the same. If you or your child has been seated for a while, it’s good to take breaks and check in on your posture. I like to have people take a deep breath in, slightly lifting the chest and head and as you breathe out, bringing the shoulders down and back. It’s also good to get up and move around for a few minutes, if you or your child has been sitting for a long time.
One easy way to work on upright posture is to stand with your back against the wall. Heels should be about 6 inches away from the wall, keep knees slightly bent and gently press shoulders, back, and the back of the head against the wall. You might feel your abdominal muscles kick in to try to press your back into the wall; this is a good thing. Try to hold the position for a couple minutes to help strengthen and train your muscles to keep you in better alignment.
If you are concerned about your or your child’s posture, you can discuss it with your doctor and ask if a Physical Therapy referral is right for you. Let’s help our children grow up with healthy habits and awareness that will set them up for a great future. You can reach North Country Rehab- Physical Therapy at 802-334-3260.
Sarah Hardin, PT, CWS is a physical therapist, certified wound therapist, and certified lymphedema therapist who works at North Country Hospital with 19 years of experience.