By Dr Gerd Mueller, Chairman and MD, AktivOrtho
Most parents are concerned about their kids’ posture and rightly so. Posture for children is important even in pre-school as kids experience a lot of physical and mental growth before four years of age. Things they learn at this age including proper posture follow them into their school years. Once they are in school in higher grades and they spend more and more time sitting, posture becomes even more important. In addition, poor posture causes eye strain because of the lack of oxygen and because of looking at a blackboard or book from an awkward angle. If they can’t see the work and their brain is not fully alert due to slouching, they can’t efficiently remember and learn. Bad posture is signa led by protruding scapulae (wings) rounded backs and increased lumbar curves. Sometimes, one can also note elevated rounded shoulders.
Children with poor posture also reported increased back, neck pain and headaches. In most schools, the current best practice is to encourage children to sit in the most upright position they can manage (the ‘right angles’ position). To help them to “sit up straight” school furniture is designed with flat or backward sloping seats with vertical backs. Now think what happens when we begin to read or write. In the upright position you are now here near close enough to the book or papers on the flat desk to read or write efficiently or comfortably. To do that, you have to bring both the head and the book closer together. How do you do it? You tend to bend the upper part of your body and force your head and neck down, that’s how you’ll stay until the reading or writing is completed. This habit leads to unforeseen postural problems.
Good posture is becoming harder to refine now a days. Posture is controlled by the nervous system. The brain takes in information from all the senses and sends signals out to the muscles to hold and move our bodies in a coordinated fashion. People with good posture are still assumed to have grown up intelligent, educated, and wealthy. Many people hold their head forward of their body; this may be a habit created from looking at a computer monitor which is too far away or as a result of trauma to the neck during birth or perhaps a car accident. Your shoulders should be held back so your chest lifts upward. Your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should also be in alignment from a side view.
The position of your feet may also affect your posture. Kids with flat feet or other postural habits often have postural issues because the foundation for their body is imbalanced. Turning your feet out or in will also affect your body’s habits. Look at the wear of your shoes to see where most of your weight is distributed to give you an idea of your posture. The position of your head often influences the posture of the rest of your body. Your head should be positioned so that your ears are over your shoulders.
Having good posture – and the physical benefits mentioned above – may also turn out to be good for students. A positive frame of mind makes learning easier, and active brains definitely need good circulation and plenty of oxygen.
Children’s brains are continually learning and growing. This means their brains need proper oxygen. It is already known that moods can affect a child’s posture. Depressed, angry or sad children tend to draw in their bodies, slump down in their seat and try to be less noticeable.
Good posture also has a positive effect in classroom learning and in social interaction as well. How we move – how we think – how we feel – how we act –is all connected.
Now is it possible to ask a child to spend 10 hours a day sitting up straight? The obvious answer is no. However there are tips that can help.
Whilst sitting at a desk, the child must be reminded to keep their feet flat on the floor or on a foot raise, with a neutral pelvis alignment. Furniture must be appropriate to the child’s height even at school. Children might fidget continuously if they are uncomfortable. Classrooms should address the needs of taller/smaller children and include providing tables and chairs of different heights.
Make sure that your child is spending some time every day in activity.
Encourage your children to spend around 3-4 times a week doing some sort of aerobic exercise or sports.
What’s happening is that our bodies are being forced into an uncomfortable and harmful position. The back problems caused by such an unnatural and unhealthy sitting position don’t tend to appear until the ages of 13-16 and worsen in the years after we have left school.