When a growing body adapts to unnatural weight-bearing, scars and adhesions begin their insidious pattern of restriction and stress.
I am seeing more and more young people with serious compression issues that can affect not only muscle-skeletal health but concentration and decision making. When the upper back rounds forward, the chest, sternum, and ribs put pressure on the heart, lungs, and diaphragm; thus reducing blood and oxygen flow. The upper spine connects with 150 joints and performs three million movements per day just for breathing. Constant compression can lead to adhesions and scarring that restrict our bony skeleton and associated organs.
A client brought in her 12-year-old son with complaints of right chest stabbing pain with deep breathing. Typically he uses an inhaler but only when needed, especially if sick. At a recent birthday party, he got an asthma attack while laughing and needed the inhaler. Mother has been proactive in helping Roberto’s chest and body pain by working on his tight muscles and joints.
Roberto weighs 90 lbs. and the weight of his backpack is approximately 20 lbs. Balancing his backpack on his spine like a teeter-totter puts pressure on the spinal cord, vertebra, and growing bones. Over time this can possibly compromise his bone growth, and development, hindering nerves and vessels that flow to and from tissues and organs. Our goal in therapy is to prevent body adaptations and any premature scarring and adhesions before they have a chance to form.
I put my hands around the back of his head as if it were a tethered balloon. F or a child his age, I should feel a soft spring-like suppleness, and elongation of the tissues when stretched. As he stood still in the effects of gravity, I could feel moderate muscle and tissue tension on his head and neck coming from the left lower body.
When Roberto lay on the table without the downward force of gravity, his posture remained asymmetrical, especially in the extremities. I was able to identify restrictions at the hips and pelvis. The right leg was further away from the midline, rolled outward and the leg was shortened about one inch. The left side restrictions were in the groin and inner thigh, rolling the leg inward. Another interesting find was the tension in the hands. Roberto’s left fingers curled while the right fingers were fully extended. This indicates that the brachial plexus or neck nerves were in tension. Roberto’s poor posture even carried over in a gravity-free position! One can only imagine how much stress and strain is put on this growing child’s body which is not symmetrical and then has to carry a weighted backpack.
I let the body guide my treatments rather than following predetermined protocols. Roberto’s goal was to improve his posture and balance his body tissues so he would feel better. I released the nerve pathways from his neck to his hands and continued opening his left side, treating his torso, spine, hips, and legs. Then I issued a home exercise program to help maintain and enhance his improved ranges of motion.
Adolescents have a daunting academic and social life
A compensatory posture like Roberto’s is becoming all too common in our children who carry heavy books to and from school, and who curl over phones and computers.
Fully functional neck and shoulder muscles are necessary for the arm and fingers on pencils and keyboards. Flexible muscles allow the head, neck, and eye to easily move from far-focus on a teacher’s presentation to near-focus on notes and texts. Tight, fatigued muscles of the neck and shoulders inhibit these abilities as well as the eye-tracking essential for reading.
It’s never a good time, but middle school is possibly the worst time to put children under unnecessary physiological and neurological stress. Pollution, poor diet, noise, demanding schedules, insufficient rest, emotional issues are all part of our lives but poor posture is easily preventable. There is no need to make middle school even more stressful. Carrying heavy packs, especially when the ratio of weight carried is so close to a person’s actual body weight, and when the body is so young, is a real challenge to the basic alignment the body needs.
Poor posture causes many health challenges, including lowered oxygen intake, compromised digestion, headaches, fatigue, irritability and it eventually leads to the formation of scarring and adhesions. Learning challenges and poor posture go hand in hand along with headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, irritability, sinus, chest infections, and other stress-related limitations. Everyone needs a good flexible posture, healthy exercise, good hydration, and good nutrition, but for adolescents, it is more critical than ever. If your child has compression issues like this, get help to prevent scarring and adhesions!