Stand Up Straight!
By Dorte Bladt
How often did you hear this as a youngster or do you regularly say it to your kids?
As parents we innately know that slouching and poor posture is not good for us. It looks bad, projects the impression that we are uncomfortable and lacking in confidence, it puts strain on our necks and lower backs and it compresses our vital organs.
In his book "Rejuvenation Strategy", Rene Cailliet MD, wrote that poor posture with the head on a forward angle can add up to 14 kilos of extra strain on your neck. This can lead to improper spinal function, compress your internal organs and decrease your lung capacity by up to 30%.
An Australian study published in the British Journal of Sport Medicine indicates that watching TV (or sitting with the iPad, laptop or phone) for one hour decreases our life expectancy by 22 minutes. Given the average adult spends six hour per day in front of a device, not including your PC at work, this is shaving five years off your life! This is expected to decrease life expectancy at the same rate as being morbidly obese (BMI>30) or smoking.
Joseph came in for a check-up at my practice as part of getting ready for big school. Mum's main concern was his 'fallen' arches. When I checked Joseph, I found that his little bottom was sticking out behind him causing a big arch in his lower back as well as having his head sitting way forward of his shoulders. Joseph's passion was his iPad; he would sit in bed with the iPad on his bent knees for hours on end - I am sure you can imagine his posture.
When questioned, Joseph's mum mentioned that he did have some trouble with speech delay and fine motor skills, and that he had seen both the speech therapist and occupational therapist who had helped a bit. When I checked Joseph's spine I found he had a big misalignment in his pelvis, and I recommended a program of gentle adjustments.
He responded well to these adjustments and within weeks Joseph's mum noticed an improvement in his posture, and with that came an improvement in his coordination, activity levels, confidence and speech. He became much more interested in doing physical activities and interacting with friends. The iPad ceased to be the centre of his universe, just in time for starting big school!
So what to do about it?
A very easy thing to do, although not very popular, is making sure your baby and child get a chance to build the core muscles in the first place. Kids love Bumbo™ seats, Jolly Jumpers® and walkers because they allow them to do something they can't do on their own yet; it gives more freedom to move with less effort and also provides a novel way of seeing the world. Sitting or standing your child propped up is a killer for the core muscles. A child needs to develop the muscles close to the spine first to have the proper strength to build control of the muscles in the peripheral limbs: arms, legs, and hands. So to best encourage core strength means lots and lots of floor time, tummy time, rolling time and crawling time. The stimulation that your child's brain receives from this will not only increase his/her core muscle strength it will also ensure their brain receives the right stimulation to help develop the brain for emotional development and future academic performance.
'But my baby hates tummy time!' I hear this every day. Being left on the floor by herself having to exercise really hard is no fun - just think of how much you enjoy doing push-ups on your own. I would suggest you get on the floor and play with her while she is on her tummy. Letting her lie on your chest, tummy or legs while your talk and sing to her is another way to make tummy time a lot more interesting. We have lots of fun 'exercises' you can do together, just ask next time you are in the practice.
So the baby should not sit by herself until she can sit by herself unaided. The same thing goes for the walkers and jumpers. Your child should not be in these devices until he/she can confidently stand, get up and down and cruise on her own.
Provide lots of active play time such as running, jumping, climbing, fighting, building cubbies, riding, dancing etc.
It's time to move! It is also time for singing, reading, Lego®, building, drawing, interacting with friends and craft activities.
It's important to provide fun alternatives to the screens, because the kids love them, but they are actually addictive. The use of screens releases 'feel good hormones' in our brains which makes us want more. We all know what posture is associated with the use of screens, as well as the not getting in the physical movement to enhance muscle development and strength.
For parents to say, absentmindedly: "Just do something else!" creates whinging, cranky and upset kids. Doing something fun with your kids helps to stimulate the brain and teach them to communicate, interact, understand non-verbal language, to share and negotiate.
The American Association of Pediatricians' advice for screens is that kids under the age two year should not be exposed to screens. That means no TV, no DVD's in the car, no Peppa Pig on the phone, no educational games on the iPad, no screens! Professional advice for kids from two years old to adolescents is less than one-two hours per day.
Hard advice I know. However, we want our children to be healthy as they can be and have long productive lives, and the time to set good habits, including their posture, is now.
About Dorte Bladt
Dorte recognises that chiropractic is about optimum connection between the brain and the body. This connection happens through the spinal cord, which lies well protected within in spine. As a paediatric chiropractor Dorte's main focus is restoring proper nerve flow between the brain and the body, by gently and safely adjusting the areas in the spine that are not functioning well. The adjustments help the nerves and the spine as well as the muscles, ligaments and other support structures of the bones. Adjustments also help the brain perceive where the body is in space better, making it easier to stand straight and think straight and develop straight.
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842