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Say 'Aaah' | KidHealth

Straight Talk on Posture

November 20, 2000|Emily Dwass

First, the bad news: Kids who slouch--and many do--are setting themselves up for back and neck pain down the road.

Now, the good news: It isn't too late to change.

Good posture helps protect your back, which means fewer problems as you get older. And healthful posture can make you look better: A person who stands up straight often seems more confident and attractive than someone who slouches.

"In general, a healthy posture is where everything lines up, from the head, to the neck, to the spine," says Dr. Martin Anderson, a UCLA pediatrician.

But this doesn't mean you have to stand like a soldier at attention. Some people are more round-shouldered than others.

"There's a wide range of what's normal. Not everyone will look alike," Anderson says.

Doctors today are seeing much more back pain in kids and adolescents than in years past, Anderson says.

A lot of kids are hurting their posture, and their backs, by lugging around heavy backpacks. The weight forces you to lean forward in an unnatural way. This puts pressure on your shoulders and back and can cause strains and injury.

Kids also hurt their backs by slouching when they sit. If you have to sit for a long time, choose a straight-backed chair and keep both feet flat on the floor. While writing at a desk or table, let your arms rest comfortably on the work surface. Instead of bending your waist or neck, try to lean forward from your hips.

Some kids get into the habit of slouching because they are embarrassed about their height, especially if they have grown a lot.

"If you're tall, be proud of it," advises Anderson.

Other kids have poor posture because they are out of shape. Finding a sport you enjoy can strengthen all your muscles, and benefit your body in lots of ways, including your posture.

If you want to develop better posture, get tips from your doctor or physical education teacher and keep in mind that standing or sitting up straight never should hurt.

"Healthy posture should be comfortable, not painful," Anderson says.

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Kids and other readers can e-mail Emily Dwass at emilydwass@yahoo.com.

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