Adults instinctively notice poor posture in children which is why “sit up straight!” can be such a common phrase for kids to hear. Parents understand what scientists have more recently discovered—poor posture can affect mood, health and confidence. But poor posture can be difficult to change without an understanding of what causes it.
To illustrate the triggers, resulting problems and successful treatment of poor posture, consider the story of Daniel, a young man who now has excellent posture. Initially, he had weak posture, and he came into my practice for relief from intense low-back and neck pain with several postural faults. His shoulders slumped forward, his head and hips were both in front of his shoulders, and his knees turned in, knocking together while his feet turned out. His also mother expressed that he was less confident socially than he had been as a younger child.
Causes of Poor Posture
There are a few main problems that cause poor posture, and Daniel exhibited several of them. The main contributors are typically:
- weakness from lack of physical activity
- negative habits such as slouching over cell phones, laptops and handheld games
- past injuries (in Daniel’s case, a prior auto accident)
- being overweight
The above issues can all lead to an additional problem that makes poor posture difficult to correct on your own. The physical stresses listed above can trigger restrictions in fascia (fibrous connective tissue) that lock bad posture into place. When this happens, exercise and self-stretching often cannot restore proper alignment. However, fascial release treatment applied to the right areas can make postural correction happen rapidly.
In my office, when I work with posture correction, I typically aim for the pain relief first. In Daniel’s case, his low-back and neck pain improved wonderfully, and his posture improved right along with the alleviation of pain. Once critical areas of fascia restriction were released, he was faithful about doing the home stretches and exercises that would help his alignment. However, he received more than just pain relief.
In a paper published in 2015 by Health Psychology Journal, researchers showed that posture affects mood, pulse pressure and social confidence. As he began to stand with a strong and upright posture, Daniel also became more confident socially. He spoke in a stronger voice, and his mother reported that he was more comfortable and successful amongst his peers. It was a pleasure to see how these former postural problems resolved. His head was positioned above his shoulders once again which were, in turn, squared properly above his hips, and his feet and knees were now facing directly forward as they should be.
While there are conditions that make postural change difficult, for most people, it is surprising how much posture can improve in a short period of time. In particular, children respond quickly to fascia release therapies, like those used in my office. Of course, home care in the form of specific stretches and exercises is important after releasing fascia restrictions. In some cases, improving ergonomics, such as changing gaming or computer posture habits, is also important.
While poor posture contributes to pain and other health issues, it is important to remember that it also can affect psychological health. When the posture is strong, we tend to feel better about ourselves, experience less social anxiety and feel more confident around other people. Fortunately, with the right tools, better posture is with reach!