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Poor posture: Why heavy school bags and electronic devices are becoming a pain in the neck

It’s an image almost every parent of young children and teenagers confront regularly: their child slouched over as they’re scrolling through their iPhone, hunched over an iPad watching a video or slumped forward with a gaming console in hand. While it may seem harmless, the poor posture habit they’re adopting now could soon lead to long lasting health problems and even chronic pain.

Straighten your child’s posture before it becomes a real problem:

What happens when the occasional slump in a chair develops into a daily habit? Over time, poor posture adds stress to the back and neck muscles causing tension and might even change the curvature of your child’s spine. That tension results in all sorts of pain from headaches to neck, shoulder and lower back pain. Left untreated, bad posture can lead to learning issues at school.

While more and more children are enjoying longer periods of screen time, tech isn’t the only culprit. The humble school bag can also be doing your child’s posture harm. When worn incorrectly (either on one shoulder or too low), large and overweight backpacks can strain muscles and lead to back pain.

If your child complains of back or neck pain, it’s time to assess whether posture has something to do with it.

Let’s break the cycle:

Physiotherapists are reporting seeing an alarming increase in the number of children complaining of back and neck pain as a result of poor posture and from carrying heavy school bags. The increase in muscle tension and ongoing pain creates a ripple effect of problems including poor sleep and lapses of concentration which can negatively impact a child’s learning.

Even more alarming is that the so-called “tech neck” – the name given to the pain felt from repeatedly maintaining an awkward position when using technology – is materialising in children from a young age, including preschool aged children. And the dilemma becomes more problematic as they grow: the muscles in the back and neck continue to weaken and tighten, and the spine becomes vulnerable and misaligned.

If you’re worried about your child’s posture, here is what you can do:

Screen time is an inevitable reality but you can control how much exposure your child receives by introducing limits. By encouraging your child to change positions every 30 minutes, you can avoid them slouching in the same awkward position for too long. Also, regular stretching exercises can help relieve neck pain and stiffness. A physiotherapist can recommend the best movements.

As for the school bag, remind your child not to swing their backpack over one should but instead to wear both shoulder straps and to position the bag in the middle of their back.

Early intervention with physiotherapy is key:

Improving your child’s poor posture is going to take more than yelling “sit up straight!” The good news is poor posture can be corrected with physiotherapy. Posture correction therapy involves using different techniques and exercises to re-educate the muscles and achieve the best posture. We observe your child’s posture and introduce specific exercises that target the muscles and strengthen the spine to correct the imbalance. We can also discuss the causes of your child’s poor posture because education is important to break bad posture habits.

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