There are a lot of kids out there that are spending far too much time on a tablet or on a phone. Screen time, phone time, tablet time and reading time should be limited regardless of whether or not kids are doing it in perfect posture. If you are letting your kids play on a tablet or on a phone, which we all do, make sure when they are doing it, they’re doing it in good posture.
If you are watching your child and they are working from their tablet or they are on their phone, you need to check to see where their chin is in regard to their chest. This is the same for adults if we are reading a book in bed or we are on our phone on a couch. Just sit up straight and open your hand. You are going to put your little finger right in that little notch in between your collarbones in your sternum. And you’re going to gently bring your chin down towards your chest, and then that is as much flexion as we should allow ourselves.
So, if you are watching your child on their phone or a tablet and you can’t squeeze four fingers between the chin and the sternum, then they have too much flexion looking forward in their neck. That has a really detrimental effect on their posture and, essentially, their nervous system and how they feel and function on a physiological level.
When we are chronically in that rounded shoulders, hunched over posture, that consistently puts our body in a state of stress. When we’re in a state of stress, it increases the cortisol, and cortisol blocks hormone receptions, particularly insulin. When insulin gets into the bloodstream, it obviously affects hormone proliferation and regulations. So, we are, then, consistently, in the sympathetic nervous system. And we typically see in adults things such as poor sleep patterns, poor mood, poor energy levels, and the inability to gain or lose weight. Just what we call those lifestyle diseases, those metabolic diseases.
But what we see clinically in kids there is that they manifest in sensory disorders. Too many parents will bring their kids in, and they’ve got all the tests and all the medications. But when we do a little deeper dive and we look at the spine, typically what we find is that posture that we’re just discussing here; the head shifted forwards, the head has come down and it’s looking towards the floor. This creates change in the upper cervicals, the C-1, the C-2, C cervical one and twos, just the first two bones. Those two nerves go back into your head, and they sit right underneath the skull, and that’s where the brain stem comes up. You have more nervous system activity at those two joint levels than anywhere else in your entire body. So, if you’re in this chronic posture, and your head is shifted forward and your head is looking down, and those joints are subluxated, they’re shifted, you are consistently in that sympathetic zone. It will manifest in kids with just the inability to concentrate, they don’t like sensory information, the diet is off, and behavioral issues. That is what we’re seeing in the clinic, which is unfortunate.
The muscles that control posture pick up on movement If we are sedentary, those muscles just get weak and lazy. Then the muscles that we are consistently using to move us are, then, trying to stabilize. So that’s how we create those compensatory patterns and develop that poor posture. We are designed to move, so, if we’re in any set posture for an extended period of time, regardless of whether or not it is good posture, then that’s repetitive stress. Repetitive stress over time takes its toll on our physical and physiological state and well-being. So, if we’re consistently in a posture, then muscles, ligaments, tendons, soft tissue are going to adapt to that posture.
So, motion is lotion. Regardless if your child is studying for a test or they are playing Call of Duty or Fortnite, a sit-stand desk is a great way for your child to practice good posture at home. So have your child spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting, 30 to 40 minutes standing, and obviously, sitting and standing in good posture. And then if they’re playing games on a computer, why not get a sit-stand desk for the computer so they can both sit and stand? Make sure you are doing that slip and check to ensure that the chin is four fingers off of the chest. Then, spend the last five minutes of the hour, every hour, just doing some postural breaks.
Postural breaks can take place during the last five minutes of the hour, every hour. You can pop in, put the game on pause, and tell them to sit up and then go through some postural work. Poor posture or good posture, kids should be doing these exercises just proactively. I’d say the best bang for our buck is the chin tuck. They can draw their chin in close to their chest. That’s going to engage their neck flexors which keep the neck back. Work on the muscles between the shoulder blades so they are getting the shoulder blade to retract, because that’s what keeps the shoulder blades back. You can put a yoga block, or something similar, between their shoulder blades and they can stand up, look straight ahead, and then draw their chin towards their neck, essentially giving themselves a double chin. That exercise is going to be really effective for kids because that’s going to engage those neck flexors. Those neck flexors in front of your neck help keep the head back and help keep the curve in.
If you jump on our YouTube Channel we’ve got a ton of videos on posture and postural breaks for both kids and adults. Another great exercise to do is with the shoulders, particularly the shoulder blades. We call this exercise the wall angel. Stand against the wall, lift your arms up, make sure your wrist and elbows are on the wall, and then just slowly slide the arm down, keeping the elbow and the wrist in contact with the wall. Feel a pinch between shoulder blades, then slide the arm up.
I would absolutely build into your kid’s routine after school, if he’s studying or just gaming or even playing sports, some postural exercise to help maintain posture. Unfortunately, we all don’t move enough. We spend too much time in one place, typically sitting and over time, that’s how we can develop that poor posture.