Whether at school or in the office, you’ll see almost everyone hunched over their mobile gadgets or slouching over their desks.

Such poor posture could lead to “postural kyphosis” or rounded back, which could worsen into back pain if uncorrected.

“Poor posture,” said Dr Lau Leok Lim, Consultant in Spine Surgery at the National University Health System (NUHS), “is a choice, not a condition.”

He said poor posture often arises from poor ergonomic designs, for example an unsuitable study desk; poor habitual routines such as carrying haversacks on a single shoulder; and weak core muscles due to lack of exercise. These issues should be addressed from young, he added.

Warning Signs

Observe your child’s standing posture. If there is a difference in the shoulder blades’ height and position or if your child’s head is often bent forward compared to the rest of the body, then it’s possible that he/she may be suffering from postural kyphosis.

Ask your child to bend his/her body forward and check the curve on the back. The height of the upper back should not appear higher and there should not be a visible hump on the upper back.

If your child has been complaining about stiffness, pain or numbness in the shoulders, neck or on the back, you need to watch what she’s doing. “Bad habits include reading, texting or gaming on the mobile phone with the neck flexed excessively for prolonged hours,” said Dr Lau.

For parents who have children who are suffering from postural kyphosis, fret not. The condition is completely reversible.

Here are some actions that you can take to improve your child’s posture.

Related: Entering Primary School - Growing Up Healthily in School

Get the Right Desk

young asian girl sitting up straight while using a laptop  

To address the issue of ergonomics, make sure that your child’s study desk is at elbow height. “The neck should look straight ahead rather than tilt down,” advised Dr Lau. Parents have to pay close attention as children are constantly growing, and would require their desk heights to be adjusted accordingly.

Related: Healthy Eyes, Clear Vision

Get the Right Bag

mother adjusts the bag straps for her daughter so she can have the right posture  

Choose a haversack that fits the frame and size of your child. The bag should have well-padded straps and backing for even distribution of its load. Choose one with a waist belt to keep the bag close to the body.

Research shows that children should ideally carry a school bag which weighs no more than 10 per cent to 15 per cent of their body weight[1]. Unfortunately, the bags of Singapore school children often weigh more than that.

When the bag is heavy, the child will lean his body forward to balance the weight of the bag. This awkward posture may potentially cause the child to suffer from muscular skeletal pains, spinal and back problems.

Check the weight of the school bag regularly and encourage your child to pack within the recommended weight limit and to use lockers in the school.

Related: Common Childhood Injuries — A Child-Safe Home

Check Posture Regularly

Watch out for poor habits. “Children spend a considerable amount of time sitting, carrying bags and using their mobile phones. The key is to improve their posture at rest, for example, when they’re seated. Standing may not be so problematic. Doing these right would set them right for adulthood,” said Dr Lau.

Related: The Nudge to Budge: Why You Should Step Out of that Chair

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

malay family on bicycles exercising  

According to Dr Lau, we slouch and put our joints and spine under stress when our core muscles are weak. “A sedentary lifestyle will further weaken our muscles if we don’t exercise. Outdoor activities such as swimming and ball games encourage core muscles to stay strong,” he said. Parents should note that obesity can lead to weak core muscles.

Postural kyphosis can usually be treated with physical therapy to correct one’s body posture and strengthen the back muscles and to improve the condition. However, if left untreated, these conditions may worsen and lead to degenerative conditions of the spine in adulthood[2] and may affect daily activities.

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  1. Brackley, H. M. & Stevenson, J. M. (2004, Oct 1). Are children's backpack weight limits enough? A critical review of the relevant literature. Spine, 29(19), 2184-2190.
    Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15454714

  2. Sedrez, J. A., da Rosa, M. I. Z., Noll, M., Medeiros, F. da S., & Candotti, C. T. (2015, Mar). Risk factors associated with structural postural changes in the spinal column of children and adolescents. Revista Paulista de Pediatria, 33(1), 72-81.
    Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4436959/