Help Kids Keep Their Spine Healthy

Good posture is absolutely key for your kiddo to grow big and strong and do everything they should be doing. Chronic poor posture can cause headaches, neck pain, and low back pain. When we’re in chronic poor posture, we’re in that chronic stress state, so it can affect hormone regulation, which can manifest as getting poor sleep, having poor mood, low energy levels, low metabolism, and sensory disorders. That’s going to affect how your child grows and develops both socially and developmentally.

Parents should watch out for their kids looking down too far at their tablet, workstation or book. It’s called flexion which means that we’re closing the angle. Flexion in your head is when you bring your chin down onto your chest, so essentially you are looking down. When you evaluate good posture from the side, the ear should be on top of shoulder. But if we’re looking down at a tablet all day, then that allows the neck to start shifting forward. That’s going to create stress and tension in the muscles at the base of the neck, create headaches, create tension and pain in the neck and the upper back.

The average weight of an adult head is 10 to 12 pounds; obviously as a kid it’s about half that. But, if you are looking down and your head’s around five to six pounds and you add gravity to the equation, that’s essentially over time going to shift the spine out of alignment and create what we call that tech neck. Tech neck is when the spine goes straight and creates a massive amount of tension in the muscles, in the neck and in the spine. That’s going to break us down, create symptoms and manifest dysfunction.

You can show your child how to know if they are looking down too far. Grab their hand, place their little finger right in the sternum notch between the collarbones there and then bring down their chin. Their chin should not be any closer to their chest than the four fingers that we’ve got between the chin and the sternum. So, if you’ve got a kiddo at home on a tablet or watching a phone, just make sure there’s four fingers between the chin and the sternum and that’s going to keep them out of flexion and that’s going to allow them to essentially keep their cervical spinal alignment.

Now when you are getting a new backpack for your kids, take a look at a company called Bixbee who we partner up with. Bixbee is a kids’ brand that is specifically designed around ergonomics. They came out with a great backpack. They are ergonomically designed specifically for kids in the way the backpack’s made landscape, not portrait so when you’re putting your books in, there’s just a better even load across the back.

Typically, the biggest driver of backpacks creating poor posture is there’s too much weight in the backpack and it’s weighing more than 20% of their body weight. Make sure the backpack is double strapped, the straps are tight to the shoulder and the backpack is not hanging too low. A chest strap is also handy. A lot of kids are only going to wear a single strap. That’s obviously going to create a lot of stress on one side of the body, or they wear that cross-body strap, which is the same thing.

I encourage all patients, regardless if they are a kiddo or an adult, to use a sit-stand desk. A good rule of thumb is 20 minutes sitting, 40 minutes standing. Motion is lotion. We want to be in several postures throughout the day, not just one posture. We want to make sure we’re taking posture breaks during the day. We want to engage those muscles that sit deep in the neck between the shoulder blades that pick up on movement and that if we’re not moving get weak and lazy.  

If you feel that your kiddo has poor posture and/or they’re dealing with postural symptoms, like low back pain, neck pain, headaches, or it’s manifested in inability to concentrate at school, things of that nature, then get him to see a chiropractor. A chiropractor is a spinal specialist, they’re going to be able to figure out where the spine has shifted, how it shifted, and obviously going to prescribe treatment around those shifts which are creating the pain and dysfunction. Then with the chiropractor, you’re going to be able to figure out a good postural routine. We can help kids do some posture work throughout the week and engage the posture muscles that need to be engaged but aren’t when we’re sedentary.

We can show kids how to practice good ergonomics by making sure they are doing the following:

  • Sitting nice and close to the desk
  • Keeping a 90-degree bend in their knees
  • Keeping their feet flat on the floor
  • Sitting in a little bit of a reclined position in their chair
  • Not leaning forward in flexion but keeping their shoulders back
  • Having a 90-degree bend in their elbows with not much flexion extension in their wrists, so not pointing them up or down
  • Placing their screen around three feet away
  • Keeping four fingers between their chin and chest while looking down
  • Moving around and taking postural breaks during the day

These are all really simple things to do and are extremely effective. Any reputable chiropractor is going to be able to figure out what is going on with your child’s spine and posture and then show you how to be proactive outside the office at home with your kids.

(312) 987-4878