Are you concerned about your children’s posture?
Heavy backpacks and increasing use of technology is causing a marked increase in the prevalence of back and neck pain in younger people.
Over the years I have seen a gradual increase in the number of school children presenting with back and neck pain – a recent study cites that 40% of 11-16 year olds in the study reported back or neck pain. In the past I thought it was excessive ‘gaming’ or ‘playing’ on computers and laptops but as my children get older I see that it is also the large reliance of technology for their schoolwork and homework. As a family we have always tried to limit ‘screen-time’, however, I also recognise that this is their future. Children need to understand the technology and utilise it as it has become the norm in our society.
No longer is it sufficient to limit their time, we now need to look for other avenues to minimise the risks that the technology poses. Like preparation for a sport, I believe, we need to strengthen the body to deal better with the new postural strains that it is exposed to – as well as being mindful of the amount of time spent with digital activities.
Young bodies are highly versatile and supple, adapting to new environments. However, they are also developing and growing and structural stresses at this stage can cause long term damaging effects. Often the aberrant patterns are setting in from the ages of 7 or 8 but the bodies versatility accommodates the change. As the body becomes more defined in it’s structure the altered patterns lead to altered muscle and joint function and this ultimately leads to pain and dysfunction. Back pain and neck pain are most common from around 12 years of age in school children. This may also correlate with an increase in the weight of their schoolbags and an alteration in their levels of physical activity as they enter high school.
I’m always amazed at how, despite the technology available, schoolchildren still carry excessively heavy backpacks plus the extra bags of sports uniform, musical instruments, etc. Guidelines indicate that backpacks should be no more than 10% of a child’s body weight, however, this is not enforced and, in my opinion, rarely adhered to.
It is equally important to pack the backpack correctly to ensure that the weight travels evenly down the spine with strong support from the hip bones. Children should be offered training on how best to pack the back pack and how to fit and wear it correctly.
Our children are the society of tomorrow and we are arming them poorly to cope well with their health. I do not believe in giving children the best of education and opportunities for the future at the expense of their physical wellbeing.
Tips to help improve your child’s posture.
- Ensure when using technology that your child sits upright with both feet flat on the floor.
- Use a desktop computer where possible instead of laptops or tablet. If using a laptop – place it on a table.
- Set aside a separate area to study with a good ergonomic set up.
- Placing a cushion on their lap will support their arms and raise the device to reduce forward arching of their necks – if they have to use a laptop or tablet on their laps.
- Take regular breaks – no more than 30 minutes in one session.
- Regular and varied physical exercise will assist muscle growth and development – reducing the adverse impact of hunched postures. The Government advises a minimum of 60 minutes physical activity every day.
- Reduce the weight of the backpack to below 10% of child’s bodyweight.
- Ensure back pack is well fitted.
- Teach your child to pack their backpack effectively.
- Never let your child carry the backpack on one shoulder.
It is imperative that we address the challenges of the digital age by educating our children on :
- How to reduce the adverse impacts of technology
- How to strengthen their bodies to deal with the altered positioning.
- How to pack and wear a backpack properly
- How to set up their workstation to optimise their wellbeing.
Over the coming weeks we will be releasing articles to help with each of these areas. In the meantime, if you would like personalised guidance and support to help you children to be fitter, healthier and stronger please don’t hesitate to call the practice on: 9413 4674.
During these Easter holidays Melissa Jhey is offering a comprehensive “No Gap” Osteopathic assessment and treatment to all school children. This session will include a full structural examination to identify their areas of weakness, personalised exercise program to address the weaknesses, guidance on ergonomics and advice on fitting and packing of backpacks. This session is available on a “No Gap” basis – so will be at no cost to you. If you do not have a health fund then a reduced fee of $50 is charged.
Take this opportunity to give your kids a better chance – they deserve it!
Melissa is available in Chatswood Tues – Fri 8am – 6pm & Sat. 8am -12pm