Rancho Santa Fe-based movement focused on spreading the message of ‘Stop, Stretch, Str8up’

A movement has started in Rancho Santa Fe — with a roll of the shoulders and a stretch of the neck, a group of kids is hoping to spread awareness and prevent poor posture and pain as a result of our ever-bending toward technology with Str8up Kid2Kid.

In classrooms, kids are increasingly hunched over iPads, on the couch they are tucked into their phones. Adults, too, work for hours at their desks over computers. In the coffee shop, in the store, try to find one head held high not tilted toward a screen of some kind.

Str8up Kid2Kid started as a non-profit public awareness campaign in January and has visited several local schools to spread their message of “Stop, Stretch, Str8up.” They encourage others to break off from technology at least twice a day and perform a series of five exercises they have developed to prevent issues such as “text neck” and back pain and promote overall good healthy habits.

The Str8up group includes the Raiszadeh family of Sophie (Cathedral Catholic freshman), Cyrus (La Jolla Country Day seventh grader), Kamron (Solana Santa Fe fourth grader) and Lily (Solana Santa Fe first grader); The Allen family: Julia (Torrey Pines freshman), Luke (Solana Santa Fe sixth grader) and Layton (Solana Santa Fe third grader); The Llevat family of Isabela (Bishop’s eighth grade) and Sofia (Bishop’s sixth grade); The Howard family of Will (Cathedral Catholic senior) and Sophie (Earl Warren eighth grade); The Bauer family of Grant (Solana Santa Fe sixth grader) and Carson (Solana Santa Fe fourth grader) and the Mikolajewski family of Alec (Torrey Pines junior), Luke (Torrey Pines freshman) and Stella (Solana Santa Fe fifth grader).

“I think it’s a lot more powerful to have peers try to help other kids rather than adults telling kids what to do,” said Sophie Raiszadeh. “It’s more meaningful and helpful having kids spread the word.”

As Kamron Raiszadeh said, there’s sometimes not an adult around to help correct a kid’s posture or remind them to stretch—he has started reminding the kids in his class. They have all started to pay more attention to their tech habits and posture. Sofia nudges the kids in her carpool when they are bent over their phones and Stella sets a good example by doing Str8up exercises in class when she has been sitting too long in one position.

The group developed their five core exercises with help from a physical therapist and Stella’s favorite is The Prisoner.

Str8up’s five exercises, displayed on bookmarks and classroom posters, are:

• The California Roll: rolling the shoulders back, not forward, 10 times.

• The Chicken Wing: placing hands on the back and pinching shoulder blades together 10 times.

• The Prisoner: locking the hands behind the back and pressing straight down for 10 seconds.

• The Super V: a tilted head stretch for 10 seconds on both sides.

• Chin Tucks: tucking the chin back, keeping shoulders down and even with the ears.

The inspiration for Str8up came partly from the Raiszadeh kids’ father Kamshad, an orthopedic spinal surgeon who has noticed an increase in back and neck pain in young children and adolescents and the alarming studies that show a link between the bad posture habits created by using technology like hand-held devices, video games and laptops.

Dr. Ken Hansraj, a spinal surgeon in New York, published a research paper in 2014 assessing the stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head.

As Hansraj discovered, the weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees. According to the study, an adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position but as it tilts forward, the forces seen by the neck surge to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.

People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over the devices or 700 to 1,400 hours a year with that heavy head and excess stress on the cervical spine.

Technology is just a part of everyday life and can’t be avoided, “It happens to everybody,” Sophie said. But there are things that can be done to bring a little relief.

The Raiszadeh’s also felt strongly about spreading this message after the “text neck” experiences of family friend Will Howard, starting when he was in the seventh grade.

“I started to get some pretty intense pain in my neck in shoulder blades. I felt as if someone had been jack hammering my neck and shoulders,” said Will, now a senior at Cathedral. “Eventually the pain was so intolerable I had to see a doctor who explained the dangers of improper body mechanics.”

Through daily stretching, good posture and a lighter backpack he was able to find solutions for the extra weight he was carrying by having “text neck.”

So far, the Str8up Kid2Kid campaign has done presentations at Solana Santa Fe, Diegueno Country Day School, Nativity School and La Jolla Country Day. Sofia approached the principal at Bishop’s about doing a presentation during an all-school assembly and they will be presenting in the next few weeks.

Their presentation goes over the “scary” health risks, how necks bent forward repeatedly throughout the day can lead to a whole host of health issues, including muscle strains, pain, spinal deformities, arthritis, and possibly chronic pain.

The kids also demonstrate good posture: ears aligned with the shoulders with the shoulders and the “angel wings” (shoulder blades) retracted.

They urge others: Sit up, stretch, switch positions.

Another part of their presentation is demonstrating how to properly wear a backpack. Stella said sometimes kids think it looks cooler to wear a backpack with one strap or to loosen the straps and have it hang low but it can be horrible for posture and back.

They advise kids that when looking at your phone, they should hold it so you’re looking at the screen with your eyes, not by bending your neck.

“Working with kids we’re able to start good habits at a young age, preventing problems and pain when they’re adults,” Alec said.

After some of the school presentations, parents thanked them as they were already sending their grade school children to the chiropractor. The greatest satisfaction came from seeing results.

“The little kids especially were telling each other to ‘stop, stretch Str8up,’” Sophie Raiszadeh said. “That was cool to see because it shows we’re already making an impact with just one presentation.”

Str8up’s ultimate goal is for their positive health message to go nationwide. Julia points to the success of the skin cancer prevention campaign in Australia of “slip, slop, slap” — a fun thing to say to remind kids to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. The successful campaign is credited to playing a key role in sun protection attitudes and behavior in the country. If their message could have the same impact it could be amazing, she said.

Str8up hopes to have posters up in every classrooms, bookmarks in books, green awareness bracelets on wrists, stickers on iPads and maybe even develop an app for the phone or computer that would alert kids when it’s time to stop, stretch, Str8up.

They hope their message will one day be as common place as “Just say no” or “Stop, Drop and Roll”— easy to remember and simple as 10 soothing California Rolls.

For more information, visit Str8upk2k.org.

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