Does Your Child Have Bad Posture? Here’s How to Correct It

An article that lists the tips for achieving good posture in children.

Smiling Asian girl

A child’s childhood is a time that is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. They play, run and banter while they develop proper muscular strength, balance, coordination, and stature. However, as education and mobile computing technology continue to evolve, more hours from a child’s playtime are taken up. Parents find their children are spending an increasing amount of time fixated on a device. 

The recent COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation. Children are fixated on their gadgets more, either for e-learning or entertainment at home. To make matters worse, home furniture may not be optimally built to suit a child’s stature. It’s also too easy to overlook your child’s bad posture, especially since posture-related health consequences don’t develop overnight.

Should I Worry About a Child’s Bad Posture at Such an Early Age?

While it is common in an Asian cultural context to assume that hunched backs usually affect older people, it is important to note that bad posture affects teenagers too. Parents need to realise that bad posture during a child’s developing years can leave a profound impact on their musculoskeletal development. This makes it more difficult to reverse when they reach adulthood. 

A normal spine naturally adopts a slight curve on the upper back. However, when that curvature becomes excessive, it is noticeable as a hunch, or kyphosis.

Girl watching a video on a mobile tablet
Spending time on mobile devices decreases your child’s active time that can be spent outdoors.

Why Bad Posture Develops

Development of bad posture is a result of various factors including injuries, muscular strength imbalances and spending prolonged hours in the same position. While your child’s body quickly adapts to little insufficiencies in their daily life, the compensatory postural adaptations will only lead to more health concerns later. 

It is also common for children to lug heavy bags filled with textbooks to school and a concern is that they will develop bad posture due to the constant hefty load. One solution is to use trolley school bags to avoid this. 

The compensatory theory in the development of poor postures resonates well with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles. TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling explains that bad posture could be due to Liver Qi Stagnation or a weak musculoskeletal system as a result of compromised Spleen, Liver or Kidney systems. The Spleen is responsible for digestion and the absorption of nutrients to foster strong muscles. Liver qi promotes strong ligaments and tendons while the Kidneys are important for strong bones. A deficiency in these systems makes room for poor posture development.

Signs of Bad Posture

Common household furniture may not be designed with a child’s use in mind. Tables and chairs that are of unsuitable height may prompt children to make subconscious compensatory adjustments, leading to bad posture. Also, the ideal sitting posture for a child may not be the most comfortable one, especially over prolonged hours.

When sitting, your child’s shoulders should ideally be stacked along a straight spine, with their bodyweight firmly supported by the buttocks. Both feet should be allowed to touch the ground, allowing the knees to be parallel with the hips and thighs parallel to the floor. Maintaining this ideal sitting posture may be uncomfortable over long hours, so children will inevitably slump.  

These are some of the signs of bad posture to look out for:

Slouching forward

Placing part of their body weight on a table naturally forces the shoulders to protract forward, in turn causing the upper spine to adopt a greater curvature.

Slumping back

A child can adopt a “lazy” posture by shifting their buttocks forward and pressing the upper back firmly against the backrest. This will cause much of the bodyweight to be borne on the curvature of the lumbar region of the spine. Besides worsening kyphosis, this bad posture is a cause of debilitating back pain.

Children bad poor sitting posture. Boy using laptop computer.
Prolonged seating and improper furniture can affect posture.

My Child Appears to Have a Hunched Back. What Should I Do?

While it is ideal to prevent bad posture before it becomes habitual, if your child appears to be developing a hunched back, there are still ways to reverse the damage. For mild postural kyphosis, here are some useful tips to help your child restore proper posture:

Get your child a table and chair that suits their stature

Many height-adjustable chairs and tables are becoming more common too. These may be a good investment if you have a growing child as furniture height can be adjusted as they grow. If buying new furniture is not financially feasible, you can use props such as stools or footrests.

Take frequent breaks over prolonged sessions of sitting

For every 30 minutes of sitting, encourage your child to get up from their chair and take a break. A neat trick to play would be to keep your child well-hydrated. A few toilet runs may just be what they need to get out of their seat.

Alternate between different postures

Encourage your child to cycle through various postures such as standing, sitting and lying belly-down to break the monotony and prevent certain muscle groups from tiring out. Note it may not be ideal to maintain some of these postures for long periods of time.

Three children running in a park while the sun shines
Encourage your child to be active outdoors and get some vitamin D in.

Exercise

A recent review study showed that exercise may be effective in reducing the severity of postural kyphosis. While researchers are still determining whether it’s the strengthening or stretching aspect of exercise that provides the greatest benefits, it doesn’t hurt to have your child play some sports and get fresh air in.

Shed those extra pounds

Having extra weight takes a toll on muscles and tires them out more quickly. As a result, bad posture develops more readily. Make dietary changes the top priority while not forgoing exercise plans.

Get enough vitamin D

Bone density depends on proper calcium absorption from their diet. While the modern diet is rarely deficient in calcium, the body needs vitamin D to aid in the proper absorption of calcium. If your child rarely has exposure to sunlight, you may want to consider a vitamin D supplement such as Salus saludynam. It is a botanical beverage mixed with roselle flower extract, orange and mango juice which is high in calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D₃. 

In more pronounced cases of postural kyphosis, is It is best to seek professional help. An orthopedist or chiropractic practitioner can identify the muscles that need to be strengthened after a careful assessment and prescribe the most effective exercises for your child. 

On the other hand, TCM recommends tuina and acupuncture as reliable alternatives. A qualified TCM practitioner can also identify the reasons behind bad posture and relax stiff muscles, clear out Qi Stagnation, and reduce pain and inflammation to restore proper posture. 

It’s easy to overlook bad posture, and it can be difficult to reverse the damage in adulthood. Taking early action is crucial in preventing this. Your children will thank you for it later in their lives!

References

  1. Mayo Clinic. 2020. Kyphosis. [Online]  [Accessed May 2022].
  2. González-Gálvez N., Gea-García GM., Marcos-Pardo PJ. PLoS ONE, 2019,  Effects of exercise programs on kyphosis and lordosis angle: A systematic review and meta-analysis. [Online]  [Accessed May 2022].
  3. Kratenová J, Zejglicová K, Malý M, Filipová V., Prevalence and risk factors of poor posture in school children in the Czech Republic. J Sch Health. 2007, [online],  [Accessed 24 May 2022] 

Related Articles

The contents of the All Things Health website are for informational and educational purposes only.
Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.