Standing up straight and tall not only helps your child appear more confident, it also helps relieve muscle strain, backaches and neck aches. Developing good posture as your child grows has long-term benefits that will pay off throughout their lifetime.
What is proper posture for a child?
When sitting, your child's back should be straight with shoulders back. Buttocks should be all the way back in the chair. This sitting position should allow your child's spine to sit in a natural S position. The top of the back and shoulders will curve forward while the lower back forms a dip.
"Paying attention to their sitting position can assist in improving your child's posture and, ultimately, decrease backaches," says Christopher Redman, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
When standing, your child's weight should be placed evenly over both hips and feet. The back should be straight with shoulders back and chin up. Head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all fall into one straight line.
Does good posture really matter?
"Improper posture can lead to increased strain on the muscles, ligaments, joints and bones," says Dr. Redman. "As a child is growing, bad posture can lead to abnormal positioning, abnormal growth of the spine and, ultimately, increased arthritis later in life."
The strain on the joints of the spine can cause joint degeneration and spine arthritis. Proper posture helps back muscles relax, reducing fatigue, backaches and other pains. It also aligns the joints and bones in the spine, further reducing the risk of degeneration and arthritis.
How can I improve my child's posture?
To correct your child's posture, make sure they know what good posture is. Show them how to sit and stand properly and set an example by correcting your posture too. When you notice your kid's posture is poor, give a gentle reminder. A word of praise when your child is properly sitting or standing can go a long way.
Strengthening back and shoulder muscles with physical activity and continually attempting to improve their sitting and standing will improve posture over time. As children's back muscles get stronger, they will be able to hold good posture longer and with fewer reminders.
Encourage your child to take frequent breaks from using computer screens or watching television to stretch tired muscles. Investing in a child-sized chair can also make it easier for a child to sit properly.
What if my child struggles with standing and sitting up straight?
Keep in mind that bad posture isn't a sign that your child is being lazy. It can be caused by many factors, including:
- Weight gain
- Genetic conditions
- Weak back muscles
- Unsupportive mattresses
- Heavy backpacks
- Poor sitting position
Most children don't need to see a doctor or physical therapist to achieve better posture. However, if your child experiences back pain or their spine can't be positioned straight and upright, talk to your child's pediatrician. Some children with very poor posture or other health conditions may benefit from physical therapy programs designed to strengthen their backs and shoulders.
In rare cases, a child may have something that didn't form correctly in their spine, known as a vertebral anomaly. These conditions can be treated with a back brace or sometimes with corrective surgery.
If you are concerned about your child's posture, contact the Children's Health Andrews Institute Spine Center.