Is your teenager suffering from poor posture?
Recently I’ve been working with a teenager who had really poor posture. Now to a teenager poor posture pretty much goes with the territory. I remember my own teenage years when my father told me repeatedly to ‘put my shoulders back’. As a teenager, this was not cool – a very ‘relaxed, laid back’ posture was the norm and a sign of being ‘cool’.
Anyway, this particular teenager was dragged to me, somewhat reluctantly perhaps, by a desperate mum, because her posture had become so worrying. She had what’s technically known as a ‘kyphosis’. This is characterised by the upper part of the spine being bent forward, accompanied usually by hunched shoulders rounded forwards and a head jutting forward. Often this results in painful shoulders and neck as well as headaches. The head is extremely weighty and, if not balanced perfectly on top of the spine, will put enormous strain on the muscles below and this will affect the stability of the whole body. This was certainly the case here as O’s (I have used the initial of her Christian name here to protect her from embarrassment) balance was very poor and she was unable, for example, to perform even a simple squat or lunge without losing her balance.
O. was extremely self- conscious about being in the gym and this made her tense up even more to exacerbate the problem. So what did we do about it? Firstly, I talked to O. about how important it is to stand and move in the way in which we are intended to do. We talked about getting a stable base on her feet with feet pointing forward. We spoke about engaging the abdominal muscles to get the pelvis in the right position, then about bringing her shoulders back slightly. At first she found this odd but, as the weeks went by, she constantly reminded herself and corrected her posture throughout the day until it felt ‘normal’.
Then we used the foam roller and lacrosse ball on the spine and shoulders to free things up here. At the same time, we focused on various exercises to strengthen the shortened muscles at the front. I also showed O. a range of banded stretches she could do to encourage her shoulders back into a better position. She enjoyed doing these and performed them regularly on her own. With a little coaching and with her improved balance, she was now able to perform squats, lunges etc. in a stable way. Her confidence grew, she felt much better about herself and said she now felt at home in the gym. She even started coming on her own to perform the exercises I recommended.
Mum and daughter had both thought that the problem was genetic because her father apparently has the same issues. However it seems like this was not the case – maybe she had simply copied his posture as children do.
Now, after 7 months of regular weekly sessions, O. has improved beyond recognition. Her confidence has grown and that has made a big difference to the way she carries herself – it really makes you feel good to know that you have seriously changed a young person’s life for the better. Her posture is still not totally perfect every minute of the day and, like the rest of us, if we’ve been sitting at a desk working for long periods, she gets into a bad position sometimes and has to correct herself. But it has made a massive difference to her quality of life – not just physically, but emotionally too.
The bottom line is that posture is important and is ignored at your peril. As a teenager you are still growing and it’s relatively easy to correct these issues which will, if allowed to continue unchecked, eventually leave you seriously injured, in pain and under- performing both in your chosen sport and in the tasks of daily life.
O’s mum very kindly wrote me a long testimonial for the postural work I did with her daughter. Here is an extract, but, if you would like to see the full testimonial just let me know. I have protected their identities;
“David has been a godsend for O. as he specializes in helping people with poor posture. After his initial assessment of O. he highlighted which areas she needed to work on to improve her posture. He has worked with O. once a week, giving her a variety of exercises to not only improve her overall physique and fitness but to correct her round-shoulders and forward head carriage which she had developed over her many years studying. David always made the sessions enjoyable and O. looked forward to them.
Seven months on and O., with David’s support has lost over 2lbs in weight and her posture has greatly improved. She now enjoys exercise and continues to use the gym as she can now see the many health benefits it provides – all thanks to David’s commitment, support and helpful advice not only on exercise but on many other issues including nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle.
In May O. attended a ball. – She looked amazing! Most importantly she told me that she felt good about herself and liked the way she now looked.
Without David’s help O. would not be where she is today – a much more confident, happy and healthy young woman!!”
If you or your teenager are concerned about your posture ( and everybody should be), then please contact me for a free, no- obligation basic postural assessment and recommendations.
David Perry, PT, White Horse Leisure Centre.