Practicing good posture is challenging at any age. Wouldn’t it be great if we all developed great postural habits as kids?
However, kids today face more challenges to practicing good posture than ever. Two factors can have a huge impact on posture: texting and overloaded daypacks.
First, let’s talk about texting, or use of any handheld digital device. It’s natural to hold it somewhere near the waist, close to the body, so the head is inevitably turned downwards on an extended neck. This puts a surprising amount of stress on the neck, shoulders, and back. Why’s that? Physics!
According to a 2014 study published in Surgical Technology International Journal, the average human head weighs 10-12 pounds. The farther forward the neck tilts, the greater the gravitational force on the neck. “As the head tilts forward the force seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees,” writes Kenneth Hansraj, New York back surgeon and author of the paper.
Good posture is defined by the ears being vertically aligned with the shoulders, and the shoulders retracted. We should all try to maintain this configuration as much as possible–texting, reading, eating, anything. Another reason to avoid extending the neck: it makes the shoulders prone to slouching forward.
Overloaded daypacks encourage kids to stoop forward to counterbalance the weight. Your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight, and it shouldn’t hang more than four inches below the waistline. It’s worth investing in a quality backpack with wide, padded, adjustable straps, and making sure it’s the correct size, to avert back pain and strain. If your child looks like a turtle, curving forward to better take the weight of the pack, it’s too heavy.
Children with back pain often grow up to be adults with back pain, so it’s worth taking every possible measure to make sure they are comfortably carrying a manageable load. Their bones and muscles are still forming, so they’re extra susceptible to injury and chronic pain.
Help your kids out: advocate on their behalf to shuttle fewer books to and from school, make sure their pack fits well, and encourage them to use both straps on their daypacks. While getting them to stop texting is unlikely, encourage them to spend as much time as possible in healthy, aligned posture.