Is Your Kid Destined to be a Slouch? Absolutely Not! Pediatric Physical Therapy And Posture

By: Dr. Monica LoConti, DPT

It’s an Epidemic
Kids today spend a large majority of their day sitting at a desk at school and carrying heavy backpacks. This stresses their spine and can lead to low back pain as well as hip and knee pain if they change the way they walk with a heavy backpack. Then, many kids go home, do homework, and end up watching television curled up on the couch, playing video games, or browsing their cell phones. And how many of those kids do you see playing video games with their shoulders back and their neck long? Yeah, I didn’t think so...

How Does It Happen?
I’m sure you already know that each of your children is unique. And each child’s cause for postural dysfunction can be different too. Here are a few reasons poor posture can occur in kids:
  1. They already have poor posture: If these children have habitually poor posture, the behaviors and alignment reinforced in school won’t help them to develop healthy bodies as they grow older.
  2. They are healthy but set up for failure. If these kids are starting off with strong bodies but are stuck in bad postures all day long, their bodies may ultimately learn poor movement patterns and body mechanics that may stick with them through adulthood and cause problems for the rest of their lives.
  3. They have poor core strength: Some of these kids may just be weak, and they can’t even hold themselves in the proper positions for long periods of time throughout the day.
  4. They are trying to fit in. Imagine you’re 11 years old and you hit puberty before all the rest of your friends. You’re 3 inches taller than everyone else and you just want to blend in with your friends. It could be as simple as that for your kid, but it’s still equally important to address their postural health.

What Are The Signs of Bad Posture?
Well that’s kind of a tough question. The signs you may be looking for may depend on the the root cause of your child’s poor posture. Some of the signs are the same as the ones you’d look for in adults, such as:
  • Forward shoulders 
  • Forward head 
  • Shrugged shoulders
  • Rounded lower back (that protrudes out when they sit)
These could be from hunching over their desk all day long!

Forward Head and Forward Shoulders

If your child has a weak core, you may also see signs that they are “widening their base of support” to help them balance their body better. You my see:

  • W- sitting
  • Leaning on their desk when they read or write

This keeps them from having to use their muscles to hold them up and using their skeleton as a base of support. However, it also puts their body in positions where they can’t function at their best.


If your child has poor posture because of decreased core strength, you may see:
  • Decreased balance
  • Decreased coordination
  • Trouble keeping up with friends on the playground
  • Aches and pains, especially in the lower back, hips and knees

Can It Get Better? Of Course!
Studies have shown that Physical Therapy helps to improve general strength and decreases the pain associated with poor posture in children and adolescents.1,2 In addition, the increased activity can help reduce your child’s risk of childhood obesity.

What Should I Do?
A skilled physical therapist can help your child by assessing their posture (both seated and standing), their balance, strength, range of motion, coordination, and walking. Then, they will help to develop a specialized program to address your child’s specific needs.

  1. Sit cross-legged or with legs straight ahead instead of in a W
  2. Practice balancing on one leg - but remember to do both sides! 
  3. Do animal walks! Walk like a bear or a crab!
  4. Play wheelbarrow (You can do the leg holding)
  5. Do planks
  6. Do imaginary snow angels to stretch the chest muscles

Set Your Child Up For Success
In the meantime, here are a few quick exercises you can do with your kid to help them sit with better posture and get a little stronger at home:

We Are Here For You
If your child is in need of an evaluation of if you have any questions or concerns, the Pediatric Physical Therapists here at Bella Physical Therapy would be happy to help.Click here to contact us today!


  1. Allen BA, Hannon JC, Burns RD, Williams, SM. Effect of a core conditioning intervention on tests of trunk muscular endurance in school-aged children. J Strength Cond Res. 2014; 28(7): 2063-2070.
  2. Granacher U, Schellbach J, Klein K, Prieske O, Baeyens JP, Muehlbauer T. Effects of core strength training using stable versus unstable surfaces on physical fitness in adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. 2014; 6(1).

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