Having adequate postural strength and control are the building blocks to a strong and healthy foundation for each child. You might hear your therapist talk about postural strength, which refers to the muscles in our back and core working to hold up our body in a strong and stable position. We like to refer to postural strength as our core being the tree trunk that supports our limbs for everyday movements and activities. When our postural strength is weaker, our muscles find it more difficult to hold our body upright, resulting in developing a weak and slouched posture. Children may often find it harder to sit upright, balance, jump, climb or complete other various gross motor tasks without getting very tired or being prone to trips and falls. They may also find self-care and functional tasks such as writing, biking, and swimming more difficult to develop.
Postural strength and control begins to develop very early in children from the day they begin to lift their head up. It continues to develop further through tummy time activities, and when babies learn to push up on their hands and begin to crawl. Crawling is a very important stage when children’s shoulders and hips become stronger in preparation for walking. This is also a time that they begin to use their arms and hands for reaching and manipulating various objects. Without proper postural control and strength, we begin to see deficits in these areas:
- Slouching at a table while sitting in a chair
- Propping their head up on their arm
- Having poor balance
- Poor endurance
- Poor ability to complete school-age tasks
- Leaning on furniture or other people
- Difficulty with hand writing
- Difficulty with dressing and other self-care tasks that require a stable position
- Poor motor activities that require strength such as bike riding, swimming, or hiking
- Utilizing a W sitting posture
We often see a W-sitting posture adapted in most of our kiddos with poor postural strength and control. When a child is W-sitting, their bottom is between their legs and their knees are bent with legs rotated away from their body (this forms a “W”). This posture allows a child to have a wider base of support and not have to use as much strength or balance to complete activities in a seated position. A W-sitting posture does not allow a child to cross midline, meaning we frequently notice children playing with objects and toys on one side of their body. This can negatively impact their future development and ability to complete school aged tasks, such as handwriting, reading, and sitting at their desk for longer periods of time. If a W-sitting posture is not corrected, the child can exhibit hip and leg muscle shortness and tightness, hip dysplasia, poor trunk rotation, poor coordination, and poor balance. To correct your child’s W-sitting, encourage them to sit long legged, crisscross, or in a chair… and then let their therapist improve their postural strength!
At Advanced Therapy Solutions, we have designed and created a home exercise program to target postural strength in our clients. We believe that receiving OT for 45 minutes once per week is not enough to make a large impact on something so beneficial to our client’s overall health and development. Clients will participate in a home exercise program for 4 weeks that combines challenging and fun exercises with a focus on postural and whole-body strength. We can’t wait to begin this program!