"Hey kids, stop slouching!"

October 19, 2017

Tips for parents to help their kids achieve better posture:

  • Encourage authority figures to help
  • Involve kids in the right activities
  • Set a good example

It seems like a never-ending struggle to convince your child to sit up straight and walk tall. You see your children slouched over their dinner or homework, reclining on the couch and bent over their smartphones for hours. Try as you may, slouching is inevitable. But if not helped, it can lead to some uncomfortable symptoms down the road.

According to Michele Arnold, MD, Executive Director of Rehabilitation and Performance Medicine at Swedish Medical Center, “Parents need to know that bad posture can absolutely lead to potential health risks. The good thing is that none of them are really serious but in terms of general pain, slouching can have uncomfortable consequences.” She continues, “Slouched posture can lead to joint pain in the spine, shoulders and hips. Muscle spasms and strained muscles are also a result of poor posture and some claim it can even affect digestion. If your young child is adopting bad posture, it can create alignment changes that are difficult to reverse.”

What causes slouching in the first place? “The real issue is that kids aren’t being taught good posture by authority figures,” says Dr. Arnold “They are going through life conforming to their seats, such as their rigid school chair or soft sofa. If they are never taught the right posture, then they will conform to what their environment teaches them.”

“Another reason we, not just kids, slouch is that we are constantly holding our arms out in front of us – when we drive, when we work on the computer, when we scroll through our phones. This causes the muscles that retract our shoulders to get weak and inhibited. They tend to shut down, and that has the potential to cause pain, which is why ideal posture is so crucial,” says Dr. Arnold.

Slouching has become such a common habit these days – one that’s only perpetuated by the technology that we’ve all become so fascinated with. Dr. Arnold explains, “Technology helps us in a lot of ways, but we have become dependent on it. Spending excessive time with our arms outstretched can create muscle knots and is the reason why we feel so much pressure in our shoulder muscles.” Since removing gadgets from our lives, not to mention our kids, is not a realistic idea, we have to find other ways to promote healthier habits when it comes to bad posture. Here’s how:

Form habits early

“Bad posture can feel normal to someone who has practiced it all their life, and resetting someone in their adult years is difficult to maintain and can be uncomfortable. As your kids move through their growing years, reinforce good posture so that eventually it becomes a habit,” encourages Dr. Arnold.

Discuss the ideal position

“So often I see patients with a forward head position which is caused by constantly looking down or propping their heads up using a pillow. The ideal posture for sitting and standing is to have your ears aligned over the shoulders, your shoulders aligned over the hips and your hips aligned over the feet,” says Dr. Arnold.

Let activities help

“The rounding of the shoulders, excessive curve of the low back or not enough curve in the low back can be caused by weakened abdominal muscles that don’t activate as they should or weakened glutes. You can help strengthen key muscle groups that support good posture by involving your kids in activities that help. Try martial arts, dance or yoga. These fitness programs all reinforce long torsos and necks and promote a strong core and back,” suggests Dr. Arnold.

Be a role model

"The best way to encourage good posture is to do it yourself. Ensure you aren’t slouching in front of your kids, and be sure to repeat a lot of the same skills that are taught in fitness classes. If you need to, speak with an authority figure at your child’s school that can add a little extra encouragement,” says Dr. Arnold.

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