Written by Mary Miller, AT, ATC
As an Athletic Trainer in a chiropractic and rehabilitation clinic, I often treat patients of all ages for injuries resulting from deficiencies and imbalances throughout the spine due to poor posture. These injuries take years, sometimes decades to develop but when they manifest, the results can be life-altering. The wonderful thing about these injuries is that they are preventable through education and proper implementation. Parents and educators alike can positively impact the health of our youth in the long run by placing a higher value on how and how often we hold our electronic devices, how we sit at a desk, how much we move throughout each day and how we take care of our bodies. Every year I see younger and younger patients for neck pain, back pain, neuropathies, headaches, and shoulder pathologies. These are preventable problems in so many cases and the best news is: most of these postural changes can be reversed over time with changing our behaviors and with rehabilitation.
I want to share with you now several examples of ideal electronic device postures that you can start implementing in your household or classroom immediately.
- Ensure that if your student is working on a computer, that he/she does not have to look up or down at the screen. The screen should be at eye-level. An easy fix if the child is looking down, is to elevate the screen using a box or a book of some kind. The same rule applies to cell phones: the device should be at eye level so you may have to raise it up with your arms during use.
- Make sure your student’s feet are able to sit flat on the ground to help distribute weight more evenly throughout the body. If the chair is too tall, you can place a step stool under their feet.
- If the chair is too deep for the child, you will see them leaning too far back or slouching forward. You can correct this by placing a pillow behind their lower back.
- It is healthy to change positions frequently, which our littlest learners will naturally tell us by not being able to sit still. A great alternative to sitting at a desk with a computer is to have your student lay on their tummy on the ground. This will help improve upper body strength and mobility in the spine.
- Students will love sitting on a physioball if you have one at home or in your classroom. It allows them to gently move and bounce as well as use core strength while they work.
- Another great way to engage your student’s core strength is by having him or her kneel on a soft pad at their computer.
- Chrome books, ipads, etc. should be propped up somehow during use. Many of these devices have kickstands on the backs of them but you can also allow your child to prop the device on their thighs or a stack of books depending on how and where they are sitting.
- Finally, have your students get up frequently and move around. We know this for ourselves as adults and it is just as important for our children and their health to not sit all day.
Notice how on the left, Jacob is looking slightly down at his computer even though his feet are up and he is sitting up straight. This causes eye and neck strain that could also eventually lead to shoulder discomfort. After adding a small pillow to his lower back and a few placemats under the laptop, he is looking straight ahead.
Kneeling and standing are great alternatives to sitting at a desk. The spine is in a more neutral position and these are much easier to accommodate than seated positions.
Find a stability ball for your child to sit on for increased core muscle engagement and a happier, bouncier student. The step under the desk helps the ball not roll forward and keeps his feet on a solid surface while he is sitting.
The prone position is an excellent way to break the flexion pattern of sitting for the spine and the hip flexors. Our bodies do well to change positions frequently and this is a no-fuss change up.