Slouching is destroying children’s spines

Children today are spending more time hunched over their computers and phones, and it’s hurting their spines.
Children today are spending more time hunched over their computers and phones, and it’s hurting their spines. AP

It took a few million years for evolution to turn man upright. My fear is that it will take only a few decades to reverse the process. The computer generation has changed the world in immeasurable ways. The knowledge that is now at our fingertips has made our children advance in many different directions. But I feel as though the advances of the technological world are bringing about anatomical changes that will forever affect the physical world of our children.

Forty years ago we came home from school, grabbed a quick snack and went out to play until dinner. We played tag, hide and seek and every kind of ball game. We were always outdoors. Shift the calendar ahead to today. The only sports our children participate in are organized either through the schools or clubs. There's nothing wrong with that. For many it supports their future in college. For others it provides important social skills.

The majority of our youth come home after school and plug into a computer, video game or television. They are forever glued to their cell phone as their only means of communication. This is the way of the future. Our children sit on the floor, couch, bed or chair with little or no postural support. As a licensed massage and bodywork therapist, I have seen firsthand the deterioration of our youths’ posture. When 2/3 of our day is spent curled around a keyboard, monitor or video game control, the result is evident. The way our children sit at tables or desks at home or schools displays the same slouching effect that is having disastrous results on their spine. The increase in the amount of teenage and young adults massage that I have seen is startling.

The stress factors for children have risen to limitless heights. I speak to parents who say their children have 2 - 4 hours of homework a night. Even school vacation time is spent with numerous school projects. Take these stress factors and add in poor skeletal balance and we're looking at a health crisis that our children will suffer in the future. Our youths experience school related stress, social stress and stress in the home.

Taking the time to correct our children's poor postural habits, beginning with proper seating in the home, will lay the foundation for correct postural alignment in the future. I always tell my massage clients to look at their reflection in storefront windows to see how they are standing. Where are their shoulders in relation to the rest of their body?

As adults and parents, it is never too late to start changing our own habits to improve our postural stance. It is highly unlikely that the world will go back to the way it was 40 or 50 years ago. Our children will not come home from school and start a touch football game on the street between the telephone poles. We as parents must become proactive in reclaiming our children's posture.

Massage therapy is a viable modality for improving the way our children stand and sit. It is one of the oldest and simplest forms of therapy. It is a system of pressing and kneading different areas of the body to relieve pain, relax, stimulate and tone the muscles of the body. The spine will naturally align itself once the musculature supporting it is softened and relaxed. Poor postural habits can be reversed as the muscles in the shoulders and back are retrained to hold the body in its correct position. We must take the appropriate steps to make proper postural management a requirement in our and our families’ daily lives.

Caron Lerner has been practicing massage and bodywork therapy for 26 years. She is licensed to practice in North Carolina and New York. She owns the Tree of Life Massage Therapy Studio in South Park.