CHILDREN and POSTURE
Information for parents and school teachers ©
CHILDREN and POSTURE
Information for parents and school teachers ©
The skeleton of an infant with rickets due to Vitamin D deficiency
Various factors which influence the development of the spine and chest.
Some of the diagrams are of children who were pointed out to me by librarians while I was visiting schools to discuss my book.
For a YouTube video on the cause of postural problems in children See here
The skeleton of an adult who had rickets as a child
For more informtion about the cause of poor posture, and it's effect on the health of children see here
How to improve posture
Most people only see themselves from the front view in a mirror where there isn't much obvious evidence of a slouched spine, so unless someone asks them to stand sideways they will never know, and therefore they won't do anything about it. At that stage they will have a reason and motivation to improve their posture.
However, one of the commonest mistakes is to sit up straight with their chest out and their chin in.
There are two things wrong with that approach. Firstly the natural spine is slightly curved at the top, and slightly arched below. Hence, trying to get if perfectly straight is going to cause strain on the spinal muscles. Secondly, the strain will cause discomfort which cannot be endured for very long before the person gives up and slouches again.
There are several ways of overcoming those problems, but one is to raise your head so that your spine follows upward and hence uncurves and becomes generally upright as you do so. When you have reached a comfortable level where your head is positioned directly above your feet then move your head and spine back and forth until you find a position of perfect balance. You can then maintain your position so that it requires very little effort by the spinal muscles to stop you from falling forward, and very little strain by your chest and abdominal muscles to stop you from falling backwards. The ability to establish a comfortable position of balance improves with practice.
It is not always as easy as it seems so if necessary you can get more information about a method developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander which has become popular and is called the Alexander Technique, See my comments by scrolling to the section about him here
Many teachers are interested in the future health of their students, and are aware of the importance of good posture, but find it difficult, if not impossible, to convince their students to sit correctly.
It is therefore necessary to understand why some children slouch, and what sort of persuasive information is likely to be effective.
Disease such as rickets soften the bones of many babies who then sag under the weight of their own body and sometimes develop mild spinal curvatures which persist. However any prolonged disease, especially one which produces a loss of apetite, or any period of starvation or poor nutrition during childhood can weaken their bones and have a similar effect.
Similarly if the child spends every night sleeping in a bed which is flat and soft the bones of their spine will take on their proper shape, but if they spend 8 hours each night sleeping in a spring mesh bed or a hammock their spine will take on the shape of a C-curve, especially if their bones have also been weakened and made malleable by disease.
A few years later when these children start attending school and try to sit upright they are therefore trying to straighten their bent spinal bones with their spinal muscles which soon become fatigued and uncomfortable, so the student gives up and slouches.
These students need to have flat, well cushioned bedding which will contribute to the process of straightening their bones while they are still malleable, and they will need to be provided with ergonomically designed chairs and desks to assist in the prevention of any further deformity.
Other factors which contribute to poor posture are poor eyesight which induces a student to lean close to their desk to see the text in their books, and tallness, where the child has to stoop down to do his bookwork. These problems can be prevented by providing spectacles where necessary, and by providing seating and desks which are appropriate for the students size.
Another important problem to consider, is the fact that students only see themselves when they look in the mirror, so they only see the front view, where a slouched spine is not apparent. Therefore they can be asked specifically to look at themselves in the mirror sideways. They should also be shown how to recognise clues to poor posture, such as the sloping effect it has on the shoulders, and they can be informed about the uneven height of shoulders, or the sliding of their collar to one side of their neck which give evidence of sideways curvatures of the spine which would otherwise not be perceived.
Students will also need to be told, in a convincing way, of the harmful effects of poor posture, so that they cooperate with suggestions to improve their posture. For example, they need to be made aware of the fact that poor posture in childhood results in spinal deformity and other health problems in adulthood, and that it is much easier to prevent these than trying to treat them later. In this regard photos of deformed spines, and diagrams of the internal anatomy being crushed under a stooped back would be useful.
The promotion of good posture and the importance of correcting bad posture were important aspects of education according to Alexander Leeper who was an advocate of The Alexander Technique which was devised by Frederick Matthias Alexander about 100 years ago. Alexander Leeper was also the principal of The Trinity College of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, which he developed as a role model for other colleges associated with Melbourne University, and he was chairman of a Committee on Physical Culture for the Victorian Teachers and School Registrations Board, and he recommended the teaching of The Alexander technique as being a compulsory part of school curriculums. His advocacy was based on the benefits of the technique on his own health but his recommendation was not implemented.
For generation after generation the importance of the relationship between posture and health has been in dispute.
At school many teachers have told their students to 'sit up straight and pay attention', while others have argued that children should be allowed to sit in any way that is natural for them, rather than being forced to adopt 'a standard postural mould'.
Some army administrators have argued that soldiers with good posture have good character, temperament, courage and endurance, and have impelled their sergeants to train new recruits to stand tall, 'with their stomachs drawn in, their chests thrown out, and their heads held high.'
In the nineteenth century some doctors were arguing that slouching compressed the internal organs and caused many ailments, whereas others were arguing that as soon as the patient sat up straight again the internal organs would simply spring back to their normal position with no ill effect.
The Posture Theory began as a way of explaining that poor posture was indeed a cause of many aches and pains, but now as a book in its 11th edition there is an additional objective of bringing this dispute to an end. With a thousand pages of evidence to support the theme there can no longer be any doubt that the development and maintenance of good posture in childhood and adulthood is essential for good health.
My attempts to educate the public and children about Posture
When I was young nobody taught me anything at all about posture, and my doctor never mentioned it, but when I occasionally asked if leaning forward was the cause of my many symptoms he would say, in an honest way, that it wasn't. I learnt almost nothing about posture at primary or high school.
The only things that I can remember was my mother often telling me to stop leaning on my elbows at the kitchen table, and sit up straight, and my grade seven teacher in primary school had a very good posture himself, and so did his son, who was in my class, and he said that good posture when standing or sitting was important but he didn't say why or how. I also had a few friends, and when having dinner at their place their mothers would tell me to sit up straight, but I didn't even know that I had poor posture.
All I knew was that I felt comfortable when I sat in a way that I thought was natural, because I didn't know, and wasn't told that I actually had a spinal curvature.
When I was a young adult I started getting a lot of health problems, but they were, at first, subtle, and later, although it was not obvious to anyone else, it was becoming very obvious that leaning forward at a desk was the cause, but again, I didn't know that it related to my posture, which I thought was normal.
However, when my health problems became many, and extreme, and my doctor was unable to help, I began doing my own research, and within five years of observing my own symptoms and leaning about internal anatomy, I was able to determine with some certainty, for repeated experimentation and experience, that I had a spinal curvature, and that leaning forward was the cause, so I was able to write The Posture Theory.
However, the previous explanation was that those symptoms were trivial or imaginary, or had a psychological cause, and some people who held those views were extremely resistant, and even hostile toward me for making that suggestion.
Many years later, when I began searching for clues in history, I found that there have been many arguments about the relationship between posture and health for at least the past 100 years.
Some people regarded it as most important, and some thought it had no influence at all, and was not even worth discussing, or that mentioning it was likely cause unnecessary concern for people who had poor posture. Other people, the majority, were like bystanders in the disputes, and didn't give it much consideration, or in some cases, none at all.
I also found that it was considered important in some states, or some countries, or some schools, and not in others, and that it was regarded as a good idea in some decades, and not in others, so the importance which was evident in schools or society at one time, ceased to be important ten years later. The importance would be recognised and forgotten over and over again, throughout the world.
When I started studying my own health problems in 1975, I had no knowledge of health, and no knowledge of posture, so during the next five years I had to develop my own ideas based mainly on personal experience and books of anatomy.
I wrote The Posture Theory in 1980, and about 12 years later I was diagnosed with incurable cancer and given only 2 months to live with no hope of a cure, so I decided to write a book about posture and health, and sell it the public and school libraries to show parents and teachers how important it was so that their children and students would not grow up to develop the same illnesses as mine.
Nevertheless, I was met with skepticism and criticism which was sometimes extreme and ridiculous,.
Later, when some of my ideas were added to Wikipedia a small group of editors, but two in particular described me as a worthless, non-notable fringy kook who was writing nonsense and rubbish, and deleted it all, and arranged for me to be banned.
They were both the most offensive and ridiculous, and useless fools I have ever come across.
The arguments about posture and health continue at the expense of children's future health.
Recently, on 3-10-13 I saw a tweet by NAM WAM which linked to a YouTube video on a documentary from 1953, which gives a good example of attempts to educate children about the importance of posture and it's affect on health, which I have never seen before, but I recommend it to my readers, See below . . .
See also the Posture Pals YouTube video below . . .
The arguments about posture and health have to finish in my favor. It is one of the most important aspects of health. M.B.
Prevention of posture and health problems
The most important thing that parents and teachers can do for the future health of their children . . . is to ensure that they develop properly shaped spines, broad chests, and forward angled breastbones, because this will provide them with a large chest space in which the heart, lungs, and stomach can function freely and at peak efficiency, and that will more likely result in a healthy life in adulthood. By contrast if the child is allowed to develop a stooped spine, a narrow chest, and a vertical breastbone, the ribcage will be small, and the heart, lungs, and stomach will be crowded and impeded in their function, and this will more likely lead to sickness in adulthood. M.B.
Some quotes from history
Plato's men were "broad
shouldered, full, square, and somewhat strong, and mighty men"
Reference: Anthropometamorphosis (1650), p. 281
"Mens sana in corpore sano"
was the motto of the ancient Greeks; and the experience of everyday
shows that the person with strong muscles and good digestion,
with fair intellectual abilities, is the one who wins the goal
in the strife for wealth and fame and all that men seek after,
and the same is also true of women.
'A sound mind in a sound body' is as necessary for assured success in life in the nineteenth century as when the sentiment was first inscribed upon the gates of the temples in ancient Greece."
From: The Ladies Guide (1904) p. 236
"The Doctor of the future
will give no medicine,
but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
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This humorous video provides a useful account of the teaching
of posture in schools of the past. Note that the teacher was
wearing high heel shoes, and a tight waisted dress which would
have adversely affected her own posture and health. The recognition
of the importance of posture education has varied from insignificant
to crucial from teacher to teacher, school to school, country
to country, and decade to decade for the past 100 years, reflecting
the differences of opinion relating to the lack of absolute proof
about the relationship between cause and effect.
This relates to the fact that human anatomy is covered by a layer of skin, so children and adults cannot see the internal function of the body. It would therefore be useful if someone could produce an animated 3D YouTube video of the changing shape of internal organs when the person has different postures - kyphosis, scoliosis, or lordosis, and long, narrow, flat, or receding chests, and what happens when the sternum has a forward or reverse angle when the person leans forward at the waist or hips, and what happens when the person slouches and the spine and sternum twists as the hand moves from left to right, and down as they write, and what happens when they wear high heel shoes. and compress their waist with tight waisted belts or corsets.
The U-tube vidio was produced by Avis Films Inc. (2008), with assistance from The Burbank Unified School District and The Los Angeles City School Districts