Leslie Proctor Davis, PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist with Tidewater Physical Therapy, Inc where she has a special interest in working with children with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy and autism.
Poor posture is a common cause of many musculoskeletal disorders, including kyphosis (hunchback), scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and even chronic joint and muscle pain in the neck and low back. Many times, such disorders can be prevented by practicing good posture, which should begin in childhood.
What is Good Posture?
Ideally, when standing, the hips should be aligned with the ankles. There should be a slight inward curve of the low back followed by an outward curve of the upper back, and then an inward curve of the neck. The shoulders should be in line with the hips and ears in line with the shoulders.
Poor posture is commonly seen in sitting, with the head and shoulders forward and rounded and the middle and lower back rounded excessively in a slouched position.
How Can I Encourage Good Posture?
The first step in encouraging good posture is ensuring that your child has proper equipment both inside and out of the home. This includes footwear with good arch support, a supportive mattress, and ergonomic seating both in the home and at school.
Exercise can be a great tool to help strengthen the postural muscles. Sitting on a Swiss Ball encourages upright posture and helps to strengthen the core - they are versatile and can be used to sit on when doing homework, watching television, or even when eating dinner. The “Superman” exercise is also helpful for strengthening the upper and lower back – these are performed by lying on the stomach with the arms stretched in front and legs straight, then simultaneously lifting the arms and legs from the floor.
Sports and recreational activities such as swimming, gymnastics, horseback riding, bicycling, and martial arts help strengthen core muscles and promote good posture.
Last, don’t forget to lead by example – watching your posture throughout the day will help encourage your child as well. Because many hours are spent in the car driving to and from various activities, adjusting the rearview mirror while sitting upright will serve as a cue to correct posture when you begin to slouch. Doing exercises with your child and engaging in yoga, pilates, or a regular workout routine will also help with your posture as well!