Last week I went into the don'ts of distance learning workstation setup and habits. This week I'm getting more into the dos!
Children and young adults are far more resilient than adults. Their bodies heal quicker and are just generally more capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear. But the way we treat our bodies as kids and young adults solidify habits into our brains that can either help or hinder us later in life.
So sure, doing homework on the couch in middle school doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But one day, sitting in a wonky position or with poor posture won't be possible without pain or discomfort.
With that being said, I'm starting with what COULD happen without intervention and then I'll get into my favorite tips and tricks for keeping distance learning safe for the bodies of our youths.
What are the underlying long term injuries that are already happening or could happen?
Lower back and hip pain: Imagine the weight of your hips against chairs. Well the chairs push back on us with the same amount of force. That's what keeps the chair from collapsing. So now imagine the amount of push back on the hips that force the joint forward. That's why choosing the right chair and sitting posture is so important.
Neck and shoulder pain: Bad habits and forward shoulders set you up for neck and shoulder pain. You are the way you sit. I think I've talked about this billions of times at this point so I'll spare you. But PLEASE set your shoulders and have good posture when you sit for extended periods of time.
Nerve pain: This may not seem so obvious for kids because they can get away with funky positions and movements with little to no consequence. But the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome or sciatic nerve pain happens with poor posture. I'd bet serious cash that 90% of the causes of pinched nerves in the neck and lumbar joints begin with breakdown that starts in childhood!
The Must-Haves and Must-Dos
Below are some strategies to break up the monotony of sitting in front of a screen all day.
4 exercises to save your kids (and yourselves)
Lift Off Upper and Lower
These are the small muscles that protect your spine and keep it up straight. Building endurance with these two exercises is the key to building the capacity to endure being straight and have good posture. It'll keep the kiddos from bending forward like a candy cane!
Thoracic Extension Mobilization
Our children's' spines are still malleable and there's a large window of time between birth until about the 20s to make changes. We want to make sure habits and exercises are promoting a straight, erect spine like Lurch of the Addam's Family. "Motion is lotion" as I say so this exercise will get those joints and fascia moving.
Thoracic Extension Stabilization
"Stabilization after mobilization!" Now that you've mobilized and straightened that spine, we need to stabilize so that we can keep that posture and alignment. This exercise for the rhomboids (a great postural muscle) is the key to keep rounded shoulders away for good!
Hip Capsule Stretch
Hip stretches are important but not necessarily the ones you see out there. The hips glide forward and that can become an issue. Breakdown does happen and will happen if we aren't cognizant. If the hip breakdown progresses to a point of positional changes, your child will be set up for back pain central. So have them give this hip capsule stretch a try!
Have your kiddos give these exercises a try! It may even be able to be a part of their at-home PE routine! Save their bodies and get them up and moving!
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Dr. Justin C. Lin