Analysis, Lifestyle
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Turtle necks. But teenagers’ bad posture is not just due to smartphones

Strong and straight teenagers? Not anymore. Hyperkyphosis (the “hump”) is more and more common among them. And it is not (only) the fault of smartphones. We should blame an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Because even three hours of sport activities are not enough. And here is why

You wanted to convince teenage children to give up their smartphone in the name of posture and you tried them all. You have agitated the bogey of the hump. Given premonitions on future headaches and backpains: «You’ll see when you grow up!» You even ventured style tips: «When you’re straight, you’re a lot nicer». Everything is useless. And not just because, just as you were preaching, you probably had a smartp in your hands too.


(A bit of) hump is cool

As a matter of fact it is contemporary culture itself that plays against the understandable concerns of parents in terms of posture. To teenagers the so-called text neck evokes images of rappers, skaters and influencers of every order and degree. Aren’t they all, always, strictly lopsided? And when social life takes place on chats and social media, who could deny that having a touch of hunchback is a bit like saying “I’m part of this world”?
And turning the style is very dangerous. Because the world of teenagers is populated by brands like Vetements. They disdains professional models and put their garments wear “street people”. Who are, needless saying, artfully tangled by designer Demna Gvasalia.

Adolescence is the time to act on posture

It is easy to accuse smartphones of the rampage of humps among teenagers. Although, thinking about it, even many “adult” actions are just as bad as theirs in terms of posture. Like sitting in front of the computer at work with your back bent, watching television on the couch, even reading a book on a train. «But there is a fundamental difference between holding an unfair position at 14 and doing it at 40», says Paolo Cattaneo, osteopath and physiotherapist with a study in Milan. «In the first case we are at the time of puberty, when the body learns the behavior that will become spontaneous. And it will last forever, unless corrected».

Do we have a problem?

To understand if you are facing a problem, just do a simple test. «Stand with your back to a wall, with your feet five to ten centimeters away», continues Cattaneo. «Make the shoulders, the lumbar area and the head adhere to the wall (thus creating a little retroversion of the pelvis). And, holding in this position, look forward. If you can do it without lifting your head, the posture is not compromised and enough exercises and determination to get back in place. It is rare, however, that kids can do it. And it’s a problem. Personal and social. Because if back pain is already the first reason for absences in the workplace, who knows what will happen in the future».

The hump is more than an imperfection

The “clinical” name of the hump is hyperkyphosis. It is well established when the physiological curvature of the vertebral column in the thoracic part exceeds 35 degrees. Depending on the severity of the condition and the sedentary nature of the subject, hyperkyphosis gives rise to unpleasant conditions. Such as chronic pain in the cervical spine, back and lower back. They ooner or later arrive, because a wrong posture leads to wear of some joints, and to excessive efforts in the extension of the cervical tract.

We are too sedentary

«At the base of everything is the sedentariness of contemporary life, of which technology is an important component but not the only one». Davide Pisoni, athletic trainer and rehabilitation in neuromotor training at the Isokinetic recovery center in Milan is adamant. «Getting around a little (less than an hour a day) leads to the weakening of some muscles, such as the abdominal core, the buttocks and the lats. But they are essential to have control over balance when the body is moving or stationary».

Balance and posture

«When the balance is lacking», continues Pisoni, «a compensation mechanism is established. The body tries to find a new one that also meets the needs of economy and comfort. That is to say with the least effort and the greatest possible comfort. But this “compensation” is not the optimal situation. That is to keep the center of gravity between the feet, making it pass inside our body. Then activating the “core”, the abdominal plate. Once “learned” a wrong position, it is difficult to change it».

Our kids do so much sport. How can they be considered sedentary?

But how come? We spend hours ferrying our children (and teenagers) to sports, and are they are to be considered sedentary? «Once upon a time kids were always outdoors. They learned the basics of movement (jumping, running, crawling, rolling, falling) in a natural way. Today, however, they stay at home (teenagers often in front of the screens). And movement is limited to sport time, organized activities that employ, in the best case scenarios, an hour, three times a week. But the minimum, for the World Health Organization, is an hour a day. And sports activities are increasingly specific, because the other contemporary obsession is competitiveness. So even those who are very trained, they are just spacially conscious for the movements related to their sport. Not on global motor activity. It is as if we wanted to be able to speak but we were taught only half the alphabet».

Our children can not move in space

«Very true», confirms Lorraine Brusamento, Italian 24-hour running champion and teacher of motor education and posture in primary schools. «In most cases, kids are not able to coordinate the simplest movements. How to jump from stationary by opening the legs, or to coordinate the landing on one foot only within a circle. And because of the shortage of physical education hours, teachers do not have the time to teach them the basics».

What to do?

How do you solve the problem of posture in adolescents? «It would be useful to learn the basic principles of the movement. Those who were once taught in the hours of physical education», says Davide Pisoni. «But most kids find the practice of basic gymnastics boring. In this case it helps (paradoxically) to use videogames and apps that teach, while playing, to move correctly. At Isokinetic’s in Milan we have a Green Room, a laboratory of biomechanics where we use digital tools to analyze movements. And recreate the memory of correct posture in injured individuals. It is an approach that works, if carried forward with constancy».

The wearables that make us stand up straight

It is therefore not by chance that there is now a rich catalog of wearable devices dedicated to posture correction. Like Lumo Lift or UprightGo. The first is a kind of sticker that is attached to the shirt. The second is a device to be positioned under the neck, on the column. Both signals, with a vibration, the moment in which we “let go” the core and crouch, encouraging us to keep a correct posture. And the latest is Ergo, a “backpack” that pulls the shoulders and pushes the shoulder blades down, minimizing the effort to keep the correct posture. If worn for 6 hours a day for a few weeks, creates the memory of the correct position, the creators promise. They have raised more than 1 million dollars in crowdfunding and now sell it for $ 129.

Better the outdoors

«Everything helps», concludes Pisoni. «But when we talk about the posture of kids and teenagers, if we are not in the presence of already established problems the ideal is open air spontaneous activities. Playing in the meadows, riding a bicycle, even just grinding a couple of miles to go to school is a panacea. Because our body is designed for movement. Regular, constant, at least a little challenging … With friends, but also with parents. A walk in the mountains, a bike ride to the park, but also just move anywhere and everywhere on foot in the city. All that is physical activity, as long as it is regular, constant and in some way challenging, does miracles».

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