Parents can help prevent poor posture in their children by gently reminding them to sit up straight and to take a break from using electronic devices. An effective way to teach children proper posture is to simply demonstrate it and practice good posture habits during everyday activities.
Sometimes children, especially teens, need to hear information from someone other than a parent in order to take it seriously. Could parents schedule a consultation with a chiropractor to evaluate their children’s posture and show them how to sit and stand in proper posture?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely, that is something that a chiropractor can help with and kind of give parents guidance. I think first it’s kind of important to define what posture is, and I think a lot of people are surprised to find out that there’s essentially two types of posture. There’s one type of posture that we can control, which is “stand up straight son,” and “don’t slouch,” and “keep your head up” and those things. Kids often need to be reminded of this.
The second type of posture is really kind of dictated just by the alignment of the spine itself and how it developed over time. Some kids will have scoliosis or forward head posture and those things. Sometimes those curves with scoliosis can actually be genetic in nature, and be related to birth and genetics. So, some of those postures they may not have full control over if one shoulder is higher than the other or there’s a lateral curve.
We can look at a child and help them with their emotional posture too. When a kid’s upset or sad they’re going to kind of slouch and hunch over and look down. When they’re really having a great day they’re wide-eyed, their head is up and their shoulders are back, and they kind of display that more proper posture. So, a lot of it is tied to our emotions, our nerve system, and the general alignment of our spine. But it’s important to understand that the emotions are controlled neurologically. By improving neurology in the body you can also improve posture. So it’s something that’s really important.
One of the most important things I think parents can do when working with kids and their posture is really to set a good example. A lot of times what you’ll see is kids just want to be like their parents, and kids learn what you teach them. I will never forget, this guy comes in with his son, his son was probably five or six years old, and had a similar hairstyle and they were kind of dressed similarly. And it was funny, I’m talking to the dad and the dad’s got both his hands in the front pockets, his shoulders are rounded, his head’s looking down. And I just happened to glance down at his son, and he had the exact same posture, hands in the pockets the same way, the shoulders rounded forward the exact same way. And it’s kind of interesting because they look to their parents, and if as a parent you’re not setting a good example it’s hard. If you’re telling your kid they need to go to the chiropractor to get adjusted to maintain their posture and the parent is not, they’re not really setting a good example. If a parent is constantly looking at their phone and looking down and demonstrating poor posture the kids are going to follow suit.
It’s so important that we set a good example for our kids and don’t just say, “don’t look down at your phone”. You have to set the example and kind of remind them. And yes, a chiropractor might have some third-party validation to the parents’ wishes about the child to have better posture, but it really is up to the parents to set a good example, work with the kid, and of course a chiropractor is going to help, but sometimes it really starts at home.
Do you recommend that parents do posture exercises with children at a young age?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. You’re never too old, and you’re never too young to start learning about having to care for your spine. Same thing as you’re never too old, you’re never too young to learn how to care for your teeth. So, age is always about just setting the proper example.
The parents don’t necessarily have to do the postural exercises with the kid, they just have to make sure that when the kids are young and developing that the kids have good alignment and use good postural habits. By teaching them how to sit with both feet flat on the floor, and sit upright in the chair with a mild arch in the lower back are all things important. Making sure that the back of the head and the shoulders and the buttocks are all touching a wall, and then having them step away as an example of good posture works. Teaching these kids invariably will help their posture overall.
But again, for the kids who have scoliosis or curvatures or forward head posture, there are specific exercises that can be helpful and could be prescribed or recommended by the chiropractor after a full postural examination. Sometimes even an x-ray is necessary to figure out if there’s rotation in the spine or scoliosis. Then the kids are encouraged to do de-rotation exercise, strengthening the weak side, and stretching the longer side.
So, chiropractic and exercise can certainly help kids with scoliosis and other postural abnormalities assume a more normal posture that will less likely be stressed in the spine later. Absolutely they can do the exercises with them, but they just need to keep setting the example and reminding them. Because again, the kids are watching, they do whatever the parents do, and they want to be just like mommy or just like daddy.
What are some tips for encouraging good posture while sitting and lounging at home?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: The one thing I always share with more so adults and I guess kids as well, is that they say, “Oh doc, every time I wake up in the morning my back hurts, I must need a new bed.” They are always looking outside themselves, but really is it possible that maybe it’s the spine that’s not healthy and that’s why they’re having back pain and not the bed? So that kind of goes back almost to throwing the baby out with the bath water.
But encouraging good posture is best when the parents set the right example, they minimize screen time. And when they’re watching TV they’re sitting on the couch, when they’re reading they’re sitting, they’re not lying in bed reading or lying in bed watching TV. The chair is for sitting and the bed is for sleeping. And you’ll probably have better quality sleep if you just reserve your bed for sleeping instead of reading and watching TV and things like that.
But it is important for the parents to maybe nudge the kid a little bit and say, “heads up” when they’re at the computer, or “heads up” when they’re using their phone and they see their heads are down in that chin tucked position. Because again, they’re going to learn what you teach them. So many parents use iPads and iPhones as babysitters. These kids are getting their hands on a phone at such an early age that they’re setting the stage for poor posture, and then those things get perpetuated later in life when they actually need to be on the phone and computers for work.
So, I encourage people, don’t watch TV in bed that encourages poor posture, sit in the chair. Sleeping, the same thing, sleep in the bed. You sleep on your back with your head in a nice neutral position, try not to sleep on your stomach with your head turned. Make sure your kids are examining their own posture and that it comes to their own head and enters their own consciousness. Because being aware and conscious of poor posture will help them right the ship so to speak, and keep their posture clear, straight, and tall.
How does keeping children active and moving help prevent poor posture?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, one thing that you’ve probably heard me say before, simply, motion is life. And the more the spine moves the healthier it’s going to be. When a spine doesn’t move it degenerates because when you don’t stir up the synovial fluid and move the joints, no nutrition goes into the joints. Same thing if you ever saw someone with an arm immobilized in a cast for six to eight weeks, when they take the cast off the joints are really stiff, the muscles have wasted away a little bit, they’re not as strong and full as they were before because they weren’t using them.
Make sure your kid is exercising and playing outside. And the little things, just making sure a kid’s workstation at home is set up correctly, and that their bicycle is set up correctly. Not allowing them to sit or lie in bed with the tablet on their knees, make sure they’re sitting up in a chair at a proper desk and using a good workstation.
Changing postures is important. As adults now, a lot of offices offer standing desks so you can get out of one posture so you’re not just seated for two, three hours straight. Encourage kids to take breaks when they’re studying, get up and move around, jump around so to speak, and that’s going to promote better sitting postures. But exercise is a great way to maintain healthy joints and a healthy spine and good posture.
And remember, when you look at your kids and you watch them when they’re playing in sports and they have collisions, they crash into each other, they roughhouse, they trip, they fall, they stumble, it’s so important to make sure that through every stage of growth and development that they get checked and make sure the spine is in good alignment. Because, as the twig is bent so grows the tree. So, a crooked spine will grow crooked. If we just get those kids checked every once in a while, straighten out the spine, get the joints moving and keep them moving, the likelihood of those poor postures and poor postural habits developing are going to be diminished.
What are other bad habits or things that kids do that could lead to poor posture that parents can monitor?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: We kind of talked about these things before a fair amount. Primarily it’s really making sure that a kid’s workstation is set up and they have good posture, and that they’re standing tall and they’re not spending hours and hours looking at their phone, looking at TikTok and all these other things. Again, most important is making sure that the parents are setting a good example. Watching them and getting how their parents use their phone is going to remind the kids how to use their phone. And then just giving them a little nudge gently and saying when you see poor postures, “hey, get that arm straight,” “get that neck straight up,” “change your sleeping postures.” So, it is about nudging them a little bit, but remember there’s a fine line. The harder you push your kid, sometimes they’re going to want to reject it. Again, making sure they’re not just using their tablets all night long when they’re in bed and not watching TV from their bed, they should be doing things right. You can’t fall asleep on a couch with your head propped up on the arm and think that you might not pay a price.
It’s really about making sure the kids have good posture, they’re aware of it in a kind and nourishing way. And then make sure the kids get evaluated by a chiropractor every once in a while, to make sure that their posture is straight, because like I said before as the twig is bent so grows the tree.
To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call (212) 977-7094 to schedule an appointment.