School’s out for summer! That means more time for pool days, bike rides, hiking and camping adventures—and yes—also more screen time. Most kids have access to smartphones, iPads, and video games, but during the school year, screen time is often limited due to homework and school activities. More free time in the summer means that kids often turn to their digital devices to keep them busy.

The problem is, all that screen time can cause bad posture in our necks and backs, according to local experts. Even though summer should be a carefree and leisurely time for kids, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the “summer slump.” Both kids and adults can benefit from being mindful of their screen time and sitting up straighter.

Looking down at your phone can cause pain.

Dr. Rhianna Wickett, a physical therapist and owner of Elevate Performance—says poor posture is often caused by weakness in core, back and scapular muscles, as well as tightness in the pectoral muscles and hip flexors. “These often result from poor habits and prolonged time spent at a desk, looking at a computer, or looking at iPads or phones,” she said.  

According to Dr. Wickett, many people have poor posture and are asymptomatic. However, others may experience a variety of repercussions from poor posture, including back and neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, impaired breathing patterns, poor balance, and poor athletic performance. “In addition to pain, they may have an increased risk of injury if they are using poor body mechanics daily,” she warned.

Dr. Wickett says kids and adults can help improve their posture most easily by focusing on getting active throughout the day and taking breaks from sitting to readjust frequently. She advises that “reminding ourselves to sit with more upright posture will help throughout the day.” 

From a chiropractic perspective, Dr. Jona Stoebner, chiropractor at Strain Chiropractic, says most of the time, she sees changes in posture as the body fatigues—whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.

“For the most part, bad posture isn’t something we have; it is something we have created.”

Dr. Jona Stoebner

According to Dr. Stoebner, by allowing the body to be in a slumped posture, it starts to create a pattern. This pattern over time creates changes in the spine and muscle allowing for bad posture regularly. This posture becomes the new normal for the body and can be more comfortable than correct posture.

Practice good posture to prevent strain.

“What we see with bad posture is earlier degeneration of the spine, muscle imbalance, and interference with the nervous system much earlier than seen with correct posture. All which, eventually leads to pain,” Dr. Stoebner cautioned.

Fortunately, posture can be corrected but takes time and consciousness—and stretching and ergonomics can help.

“When kids are on devices the best thing you can do is set it up so they are not continually looking down and set time limits to get up and move,” Dr. Stoebner says. “As for adults, continually check your posture and set up your work space appropriately. If you need help with ergonomics, check with your HR department, chiropractor, or physical therapist. If you notice the slump, re-adjust and straighten up!”

Easy Exercises for Straightening Up

  • Standing with your back against the wall and moving your arms out to the side and overhead, keeping the wrists close to the wall. 
  • Focus on exercises to improve your core and back, such as prone superman exercises or bird dog exercises. 
  • Strengthen the back muscles with rowing exercises for adults, or simply staying active and playing outside with physical activity games for children. Encourage your kids to be active at least 30-60 minutes each day. For families, taking a walk together or riding bikes can help adults and children stay active. 
  • See a physical therapist to develop a personalized program with exercises that will be the most important for you to prevent injuries related to poor posture and body mechanics. 

Courtesy: Dr. Rhianna Wickett, Elevate Performance in Rapid City


WORDS BY MOLLY BARARI