When a baby is still growing in the womb, two primary curves develop: the thoracic spine curve, which is half of the spine, and the sacral curve at the bottom of the spine. Together these curves give the spine an overall C-shape in the spine from the top of the spine to the bottom, and are the reason babies like to be cradled as that position puts the least amount of tension on their body (if your baby doesn't like to be cradled, or be in a car seat, or lay on his or her back, it's time for a spinal checkup with a pediatric chiropractor).
As infants are able to lift their head and crawl, the cervical and lumbar curves develop and the shape of the spine changes from a "C" to an "S." This development continues as babies learn to stand and walk. This "S" shape gives the spine flexibility and strength, without the pressure and weight that a straight spine with vertebrae stacked on top of each other would cause.
While the shape of the spine is a major part of posture, the entire body is involved. If you look at your child (or anyone, for that matter) from the side, you should be able to draw an invisible line straight down from their ear, to their shoulder, to their hip, then knee and outside of the ankle.
What we're seeing more commonly in children is the head shifted forward and rounded shoulders. This is often referred to as "text neck" because the prolonged positioning of looking down at the phone and texting changes your posture. It isn't the phone that is the problem.
Looking down at anything, even a good book, for a prolonged period of time causes stress to the spine.
A few of our favorite ways to support the natural curves of the spine and overall posture are:
Since reading, tablets, legos, etc... are part of a child's life, we encourage being in a position to be able to do those things without the extra stress of looking down.
Lie on tummy with legs extended out
With an open chest, resting on forearms
Place the book/tablet/activity in front of you
Since kids are spending more time looking down, it's important to give some attention to the muscles on the back. This is a great way to finish an activity when you're already in the Sphinx Position.
Lie on tummy with arms extended out in front and legs extended out behind
Slowly lift arms and head up. (Make sure the head is in a neutral position - no tucking chin down or tilting head back - imagine there's a rod from the top of the head down to between the shoulder blades)
Slowly lower arms and head back down
Repeat 10 reps
Playing the Superman theme song is highly encouraged
Moving The Spine
Our bodies were designed to move, and this is especially true for children. The current recommendation for children is at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day. So what are some ways to get that movement in?
Dance parties are always top on our list, as this is something the whole family can join in on in the comfort of your home
Sports. Whether organized, or with a group of neighborhood kids, the movement that comes from playing a sport is great for your body!
Classic Outdoor Games. Tag (and all the variations of it - anyone else play Looney Tunes Freeze Tag??), Hide and Seek, Capture the Flag, Hopscotch, Red Light Green Light... Combine nostalgia and movement that's good for the whole family!
Before we move the spine, we want to make sure it's properly aligned so that it moves in a smooth, safe way. Pediatric chiropractors are trained to assess the movement in developing spines and make gentle, specific adjustments to support normal function.
It's never too early to be mindful of the position your body is in, and find simple ways to support it every day!