Disclosure:: This post is sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital and written by Ryan P Farmer, MD.
Pediatric Ergonomics: This Is the Sit-uation
Proper ergonomics for children could prevent chronic pain today and well into their future.
“Sit up straight.” “Square your shoulders.” “Don’t slouch.” Bringing back memories? What Mom and Dad were trying to teach you is proper body position, or ergonomics, something that will become even more important to your little ones this fall.
It seems COVID-19 is impacting nearly every aspect of life these days, even the upcoming school year.
Many school-aged children are moving to a virtual learning model, where they will be attending class online. That means up to four or five hours a day sitting in front of a computer or tablet. You are probably already slouching in your seat thinking about it.
Pediatricians are referring a growing number of children with back pain, neck pain and other musculoskeletal complaints that we typically associate with adults who have predominantly desk jobs. At the same time, more and more children are using computers, tablets, cell phones and other electronic devices.
Though for many individuals this may be temporary, for many others this will be the norm as they go on to adulthood.
Regardless of their career aspirations, ignoring proper ergonomics can lead to chronic pain that will continue to plague your little ones throughout their lives. In general, kids today are less active, spending an increasing amount of time in front of video game systems, computers, tablets and smart phones. Often, that equates to hours with no breaks to relieve bad posture and with wrists and elbows at awkward angles performing repetitive tasks.
Why does it matter? Though much of the time our bodies are able to heal from injuries, repetitive injuries lead to chronic inflammation which can lead to tissue damage and chronic pain. As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Developing those habits that can prevent lifelong debilitating pain at an early age will pay significant dividends later on.
The news is not all doom and gloom. In fact, the solution is rather easy. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Provide a comfortable chair, like an office chair, that will encourage good posture.
- Ensure both feet are on the floor with knees bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Sit up straight. Push your backside to the rear of the seat.
- Place your forearms parallel to the floor with elbows bent at a 90- to 100-degree angle. Adjust armrests to accommodate, if needed.
- Rest shoulder blades on the back of the chair. Avoid leaning forward or slouching toward the computer screen.
- Keep eyes parallel with the top of the computer screen to reduce neck strain. One study estimated that the adult human head weighs approximately 10 pounds. Leaning your head forward for extended periods can increase the forces in your neck up to six times, depending on how far forward you lean your head.
- Take breaks every 20-30 minutes. Get up and move around, if allowed. Set a timer to assist with keeping track of when it is time to take a break.
- Stretch your muscles during breaks. Stand up and reach your arms toward the ceiling. Take a couple of deep breaths, then bend down and touch your toes to stretch your hamstrings, calves and back muscles. You will not only feel more refreshed, but you also will improve your concentration and mental acuity.
These are good tips for you, too, Mom and Dad.
Lead by example, whether you are working from home or just enjoying time on the computer or tablet. You are not just setting a good example for today. These tips will benefit your children, and you, well into their college years, careers and beyond.
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About the Author
Dr. Ryan P Farmer is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with the Kids Specialty Center at Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital. Learn more at LourdesRMC.com.