Whenever I do an annual physical, I always spend some time looking at the child’s back. Why? It’s important to examine a child’s spine to check for any irregularities or disease, such as scoliosis (curvature). I also check the skin around the child’s neck and back (really, everywhere) for moles that need to be noted and watched.
As children get older, I often note that when I ask them to stand up so I can look at their backs, they slouch or slump. Each time, I can hear my own mother saying, “Susan, stand up straight, put your shoulders back!” I’m suddenly, noticeably, sitting up straighter even while typing this!
Posture is important, and at times a parent will even ask me to discuss it with their child. The 3- to 10-year-old set generally stands up fairly straight, but tweens and teens are often guilty of poor posture. This is interesting, as most patients this age talk about wanting to be taller, yet they don’t even stand up straight!
Then, there are my patients who, for various teenage reasons, feel they are “too tall” and try to hide their height by slumping. In either case, slouching and slumping not only looks bad, but it’s also bad for the back. Poor posture can lead to neck and shoulder pain, a common complaint of adolescents.
Not only do many teens have poor posture while standing, but have you ever watched as they hunch over their computers? Adolescents often spend in excess of 8 hours a day online -- without paying any attention to how they’re sitting. I see many a teen with neck pain that radiates down the back and scapula. Poor posture leads to lots of muscle spasms, as well.
Urge your children to practice standing up straight.
Have them try the good old-fashioned technique of standing with their back and shoulders against a wall.
, then see if they can step away from the wall and maintain that erect posture. And how about the old book-on-the-head trick? Younger children find balancing a book on their heads is fun.
Everything just works better with good posture. You can breathe better, your tummy muscles get tighter as you stand up straighter, and good posture takes pressure off of your back. You’ll have less neck and shoulder pain, and lastly, you’ll just look better! (Boy, would my mother be proud of me for agreeing with her now.)
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of “The Kid’s Doctor” radio show. Submit questions at www.kidsdr.com.)