Whenever I am doing a child’s physical exam I always spend some time looking at their backs. Why? It’s important to look at a child’s spine to assess any irregularities or disease that may be present like scoliosis.  I also check the skin around their neck and back (really everywhere) for moles that need to be noted and watched. This is all part of a child’s yearly physical.

But as children get older I often note that when I ask them to stand up to look at their backs, they are slouching or slumping! I can just hear my own mother’s voice, “Susan, stand up straight, put your shoulders back”.  I am suddenly, noticeably, sitting up straighter even while typing this!

Posture is so important and at times a parent will even ask me to discuss the importance of good posture with their child. It typically isn’t the 3-10 year old set, they really seem to stand up fairly straight, but the tween and teen group is often guilty of poor posture. It is interesting as most patients that age talk about wanting to be taller, but regardless they don’t even stand up straight.

Then there is the “tall” group who for many teenage reasons, feel as if they are “too tall” and try to hide their height by slumping. In either case, slouching and slumping not only looks bad, but it’s not good for the back.

Poor posture can lead to neck and shoulder pain, which is a common complaint of adolescents. Not only do they have poor posture while standing but have you watched them as they hunch over their computers?

Adolescents are often spending in excess of 8 hours a day online and are not paying any attention to how they are sitting. I see many a teen with neck pain that radiates down their back and scapula, often secondary to their posture while “computing” on their many electronic devices. This poor posture leads to lots of muscle spasms as well.

My advice? Have your child start practicing standing up straight. Have them try good old-fashioned time with their back and shoulders up against the wall and see if you they can step away from the wall and maintain that erect posture.What about the ‘ole book on the head trick as well?  A younger child will find balancing a book on their heads to be a fun exercise, but this exercise may not be as much fun for the older set.

Everything just works better with good posture don’t you think?  You can breath better, your tummy muscles get tighter as you stand up straight, and that takes pressure off of your back as well. You will have less neck and shoulder pain and lastly, you just look better! (boy would my mother be proud of me for agreeing with her.)

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.