Thursday, February 13, 2014

Text Neck II

            Ian slipped into his seat in the front row. He shoved a Mets sweatshirt behind his back and looked around room. His short stature, only 4’6”, made him self-conscious enough; he didn’t want to appear a dork, too. The taller kids fit perfectly in their desk/chair combos provided by Jefferson Middle School. They didn’t have to slouch over the attached desk to draw parallel lines, pyramids, and cones as he did. Math class was a real problem for him and it had nothing to do with geometry. He aced the subject.  He just wished he could pull the chair in closer so he could sit up straight like Luke, his nemesis, but the chairs didn’t move. His right arm, his pitching arm, rested comfortably on the extension that grew from the chair like a single appendage, but as the wooden extension curved left forming a desktop, it protruded too far away from his body and made him lean forward. That’s why he was seeing a physical therapist three times a week instead of playing Little League.
            “Hey, Short-stuff,” Luke called from the back of the room. “Need my jacket?”
            Ian didn’t move. With fists pressed against his thighs he stared straight ahead but Oh! how he wished he could stand on the mound and face Luke. Strike 1, the Ump would call. Then 2 and 3.  OUT! That’s all he’d need and that lanky, pimply kid would slink back to the dugout and maybe, finally, shut-up.
            Mr. Buckley walked in the room. Luke shut his mouth and when all eyes faced the blackboard focusing on the day’s assignment, Ian slid the sweatshirt from behind his back and stuffed in under his desk.

In keeping with my previous post, Text Neck of January 18, 2014, fictitious Ian is an example of a real problem facing kids and adults today. A quote from physical therapist, Michael Ryan, of Orthopedic Care in Fair Lawn, N.J. explains the issue.

When someone- child or adult- is in proper posture, the spine (vertebrae) can take nearly 6000 pounds of force before transferring the load to the surrounding musculature.  Once someone slouches, or is out of proper posture, the force the spine can take decreases 70X to only 90 pounds of force.  This causes the paraspinal musculature to be overworked and fatigue much earlier than it is accustomed to, with degenerative changes occurring earlier and earlier in life.  You couple this with iphones, ipads, tablets, video game rocker chairs where the head is always forward of the body, and this leads to significant musculoskeletal issues.”

Physical therapists and chiropractors have treated kids as young as ten with multiple issues causing "forward head, rounded shoulder posture." Ryan told me that “If one stands upright, or sits upright, you should be able to drop a plumb bob and have it intersect the middle of the ear, middle of shoulder, hip, and knee.  His “guestimate” is that 95% of the population in the U.S. has fair to poor posture.  “The only patient population who would have good posture is the military,” he says, “If  they don't make you run 15 miles!!

 Ian’s desk, described in the short story above, assumes a one size fits all approach. It doesn’t take into account a child’s inseam or torso length and kids are told to sit back and upright in their chair. As Ryan says, “If they do this, then they can't write effectively and have to slouch forward.” He tells children and teens “to place their jacket, backpack, or sweater in the small of their back to artificially push them forward” and then he adds that most of them “give me this look that they'll look 'stupid' and be made fun of.” He says, “You can't blame them. How many kids will carry around lumbar support or their jackets once they go to their locker in 1st period?”  Perhaps if schools put money into this small issue of desks we’d all save money in the long run avoiding increased health care costs. And, as Ryan and I thought, maybe there would be increased attention spans and learning comprehension would improve because kids would not be fidgeting trying to get comfortable in their seats. is a terrific resource from the Cornell University School of Ergonomics that expands on the issues of proper postures and alignment for children. Adults will benefit from these suggestions as well.

So, sit up straight (like your mother told you), and take a break sometimes – stop texting or pounding on the keyboard, put your iPad away.  Go for a walk. Clear your mind, smell the flowers…


  1. My posture is HORRIBLE - trying to improve it and thinking that pilates (triple ugh) may be the way to go. My son's pediatrician told me that to give him a child the correct "feel" for good posture, have them put on a coat backwards and then zip them into a chair.

  2. Backpacks and ergonomically poor seating are enough to make a mother want to scream. The 'text neck', conceptually speaking, at least gives some choice. But this is a serious problem -- and it's good that you remind us of it.