21 Jan The Perils of Poor Posture in Puberty
Musculoskeletal and postural problems in teenagers are on the rapid increase.
Three members of our Flex team, Donna Gee (DG) Physiotherapist, Karin Ubbali (KU) Teen Allegro and mat Pilates instructor, and Cheng-Fang Wu (CFW) Teen Allegro and Xtend Barre Instructor, explain why so many teens are now suffering from neck and back problems and offer advice on what they can do to prevent it.
What are the most common postural issues for growing teen boys and girls?
CFW: It’s common for teenagers to be seen with hunched backs, rounded shoulders and their heads sloped forward.
DG: Many teens are prone to sudden growth spurts where they can shoot up several inches over a very short period of time, and those who experience this type of rapid surge tend to have poorer posture as a result.
KU: Teens in puberty experience a lot of body changes, and girls commonly start to round their shoulders and slouch when they begin developing breasts.
What are the causes and how do teens today differ from past generations?
All three instructors agree that these lifestyle choices are the key-contributing factors to poor posture:
- Teens today are generally more sedentary than past generations – they tend to participate in fewer outdoor activities with less overall exercise.
- Watching TV, playing electronic games, and surfing the Internet on phones or computers all promote poor posture where the head is generally tilted forward and the shoulders hunched over.
- The average teenager sends 70 to 80 texts each day and spends at least an hour watching videos or checking social media sites on their mobile devices. That means that each time a device is used, they are either seated at a desk, on the sofa, standing or slumped on the floor.
- Heavy school bags – between books, computers and sports kits, teens can end up carrying a backpack almost equivalent to their own body weight.
What can be done to prevent/treat these issues?
Virtually every Physiotherapist or pilates instructor asked will tell you that it is their wish that yoga and Pilates be routinely incorporated into all high school PE curriculum.
KU: Joseph Pilates was passionate about educating children to be healthy and ensure exercise was a regular part of their life.
CFW: Ballet barre, Mat, Allegro, and Flying Pilates all build core strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination, and strength. Flying Pilates in particular involves stretching, and traction that lengthens out the body resulting in improved posture.
KU + CFW: The breathing methods taught in Pilates have the added health benefit of helping calm stress and increase attention span and focus levels.
What are the long-term repercussions of not dealing with postural issues?
KU: Postural problems that begin in puberty, and left undetected or uncorrected, will generally lead to greater problems when teens become adults.
DG: The long term effect of tight muscles, poor posture, weak core muscles, can lead to degeneration of the spine (osteoarthritis), scoliosis, kyphosis – chronic neck and back pain, increased wear and tear of the hip, knee and ankle joints and for some people even problems with the feet.
All: Teaching teens how to care for their bodies in a balanced and mindful way can help them prevent injuries and lead a fuller, healthier life. The focused concentration and awareness required in Pilates, can also help them develop a greater mental endurance that can be applied to their studies and any other challenges they may choose to set themselves in life.