School Physical – Check; Dental Screen – Check; Vision Screen – Check; Subluxation and Posture Screen – ???
It’s that time of year again, when we are preparing our kids for back to school. This means all the health and wellness checks and physicals need to be up to date. When was the last time you had your child’s posture and nervous system checked? How about being checked for subluxations? Today, Dr. Jennifer Thompson, a pediatric chiropractor serving the greater Des Moines communities, is discussing why getting your child’s posture checked is so important for their overall health. She will also give tips on how to keep your child’s posture functional while carrying their backpack to and from school.
Posture – It Matters!
When we think of posture, we often think about our grandmothers or mothers telling us to sit or stand up straight. But posture as a whole is so much more than how we sit or stand. Posture is defined as the actual and proper alignment of the parts of our body in relationship to the spine, as well as the proper use of the body at all times. This is basically saying how our heads, shoulders, knees and toes, are all aligned in relationship to our spine and how when we are moving throughout our day, how these parts and functioning together. And you thought it was just a catchy pre-school song!
Posture begins to develop during infancy. Posture is why tummy time is recommended for newborns and infants. As the infant begins to move through milestones of rolling, crawling, sitting up by themselves, and walking, they are developing their postural behaviors. Posture is not only a developmental behavior, but it is also a learned behavior, that peaks between the ages of 3-5 years old. So, when you are trying to get your pre-teen or teen to sit up straight, essentially, they have to learn a completely new behavior, and it can be a challenge!
Add to the normal developmental milestones, the increased use of electronic devices by our toddlers and preschoolers. During this extremely sensitive time of learning proper posture, devices are challenging this with increased postural distortions, like forward head postures, hunching of the shoulders, slouching, etc. If we are introducing these postural distortions early on, we will begin to see how the body will adapt to the improper alignments and begin to develop abnormal postural deviations, such as head tilts, shoulder tilts, and the constant hunching of the shoulders and neck.
In my office, I see preteen and teenage patients with these chronic postural distortions, and they are being brought in by their parents for symptoms ranging from headaches, mid to upper back tension, difficulty performing in sports, and more. Upon investigation with our consultation with the parent and teen, we usually find out that they are using devices a great majority of the day. Anything from phones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, and more. If your teen is complaining of these types of symptoms, or are on devices for several hours per day, posture may be the culprit. Ask them to sit up or stand up straight for 1-2 minutes. If they indicate any tension, fatigue, or soreness in their neck or spine, they may have postural distortions that need to be evaluated.
Posture matters more than just the symptoms that may be occurring. Because our nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are housed within our spine, postural distortions can put pressure and tension on the spinal cord and spinal nerves that control all functions of our body. In which case, your child may not be complaining of tension and headaches, but may be having difficulty focusing in school, be constantly battling the most recent cold virus, not sleeping well, not eating well, or may even be experiencing behavioral problems in and out of the classroom. If your child is suffering from these types of symptoms, a posture and nervous system check is highly recommended.
Backpacks – Fashion vs. Function
Along with electronic devices, backpacks can cause a large amount of stress and strain on your child’s posture and developing spine. A recent study showed that 55% of students wearing backpacks are carrying greater than 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. Carrying 15% of your body weight or more can cause severe strain on your back and spine, including spinal compression, postural deviations, like leaning forward to bear the weight, and can compromise pre-existing conditions like scoliosis.
Another study in the journal Spine showed that of 1122 backpack users, 77% were classified as having back pain. These students also showed related significantly poorer health and increased overall body pain.
It is vitally important that as parents, we monitor our child’s backpack usage to ensure that it is properly and ergonomically used, and not overloaded.
- Load your child’s backpack properly – Place the heaviest items closest to your child’s back, and weigh it to ensure it is 10% of less of your child’s body weight
- Use it Right – A backpack with 2 straps, used correctly, will cause less strain on the spine. Chest and waist clips will also help offset the load
- Back packs should be worn in the middle of the back, with comfortable, not too tight straps. The bottom of the backpack should not fall below the lower back/beltline. If it does, the straps should be adjusted, or the backpack is too large for the child.
- Follow the chart below to help guide you on the appropriate weight of your child’s back pack.
- Each week, empty your child’s backpack, re-pack it, and weigh it to ensure that it doesn’t become over loaded.
How to Assess Your Child’s Posture
If you are concerned about your child’s posture, you are able to do a quick at home assessment. If you visualize any postural deviations, as the example photo shows, contact your family wellness chiropractor for a more thorough examination. Follow the steps below to assess your child’s posture from the back and side.
- Have your child stand in front of you, with their back facing you and follow the four steps.
- Step one – look at bottom of ears; if one is higher than the other, this is head tilt and a sign of a possible neck misalignment.
- Step two – look at the shoulders; they should be level, if they are not, shoulder tilt is a sign of a possible mid-back issue.
- Step three – place your hands on the wing bones or scapula; if one is moved toward you more than the other, this could be the sign of mid back issue.
- Step four – place your hands on your child’s hips; if one hand is higher than the other, this is hip tilt and can be an indicator of a misalignment of the hip, sacrum or lower back.
- Have your child turn to face the side. When looking at a side view there are two signs of possible postural deviations or spinal misalignments.
- The first sign is the ear lobes; are they directly over the shoulder or slightly forward?
- The second sign of a potential problem are shoulders hunched or rolled forward.
If you find that your child is showing any signs of postural deviations, complaining of headaches or back tension, is on devices often, carries a heavy backpack, or any other concern mentioned in this post, getting them checked by a pediatric chiropractor is highly recommended. Dr. Jen at Balance Chiropractic & Wellness offers these screening services to the public and is always happy to discuss your child’s health concerns with you in a complimentary consultation.
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Thompson, DC, CACCP is a post graduate certified prenatal and pediatric chiropractor. As a mom herself, Dr. Jen lends her own experience to her patient care, and cares for her patients as an extension of her own family. Dr. Jen has served the Windsor Heights and Des Moines area for over 8 years.