Mind your back(pack) during back-to-school

From homework and tests to extra-curricular activities, students already shoulder plenty of weight during back-to-school time. Their backpacks should be the least of their worries.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of awareness or simple disinterest (or both), backpacks can pose a health risk to kids and students of all ages.

“Wearing a backpack incorrectly or wearing one that’s too heavy can be a contributing risk factor for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness and pain, especially in the lower back,” said Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, an expert on school ergonomics and the healthy growth and development of school-age children.

Statistics back her assessment.

The American Occupational Therapy Association estimates that about 79 million students across the U.S. carry school backpacks. Among these, nearly 22,000 strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures – ailments caused by improper backpack use – were reported by medical providers in 2013, according to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission.

“I put backpack problems into the ‘overuse injury’ category,” said pediatric orthopedist Robert Bruce of the Emory School of Medicine. “Many attribute their back pain to heavy book bags.”

And while weight is certainly a key factor, the way backpacks are designed, lifted and worn can also contribute to discomfort, pain and injury in students. The good news: much of this is preventable.

In this spirit, the therapists at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., offer the following tips for kids, parents and teachers:

Select the Right Pack: Choose a pack that’s no larger than 75 percent of the length of your child’s back. Wide straps keep the pack from digging into the shoulders, and a padded back adds comfort and protection.

Lighten the Load: A loaded backpack should never be heavier than 10 percent of a child’s weight.

Distribute the Weight: Use multiple pockets and compartments to distribute the weight of the items inside the pack. Keep heavier items closer to your child’s back, while light and/or sharp items (pens, scissors, etc.) should be stored away from the back.

Lift with the Knees: Teaching your child about proper lifting will offer a lifetime of protection for his/her back. Children should always lift their backpack using their knees, not their waists.

Adjust and Carry: Insist your child always carry his or her pack using both shoulder straps, with the sternum strap and hip belt (if part of the pack) tightly secured. Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack rests snugly against the back, below the shoulders yet above the hips.

Watch for Warning Signs: Signs your child’s backpack is too heavy or not fitted properly include difficulty picking up and/or putting on the pack, pain when wearing, tingling or numbness in the arms or legs, strap marks left behind on the shoulders, or a change in posture while wearing the backpack.

Seek Advice from a Physical Therapist: Licensed physical therapists (PTs) are specially trained to prevent injury, reduce pain and restore mobility. Seek the advice of a physical therapist to learn more about properly selecting and wearing a backpack.

“I think the backpack is a nice tool, but investigate which type of pack seems to be the most comfortable for your child,” summarized Dr. James Weinstein, chair of orthopedics at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “And don’t put everything, including the kitchen sink, in it. It can’t be their home away from home.”

 

SOURCES:

AOTA: 1, 2, 3’s of Basic Backpack Wearing
http://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Backpack/meet-your-backpack-8-2014.pdf

AOTA: Back Facts: What’s All the Flap About
http://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Backpack/Whats%20All%20the%20Flap%20About.pdf

Everyday Health: Is Your Child’s Backpack Causing Chronic Back Pain?
http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/back-to-school/backpack-causing-chronic-back-pain/

NPR: Surgery & Back Pain
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5252993

APTA – More Forward: Backpack Safety
http://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Detail.aspx?cid=ec576128-8e7e-4afc-87a0-e6ace64bcf0a#.Vbq2ZflVg5s

 

Vallejo

Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 7:30 am – 6:00 pm
Friday: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

 

Jeremy Faust, MPT, CSCS, Clinic Director

Jeremy received his Masters of Physical Therapy degree from Loma Linda University in 2003. He obtained his Certified Sports and Conditioning Specialist from the NSCA in 2005. He has focused his work in the out-patient therapy setting for the majority of his career. He has taken many continuing education courses over the years with emphasis on the Mulligan Concept, Kinesio taping, manual therapy, and neurological rehabilitation.

Jeremy believes in treating the patient as a whole and finding the true cause of the problem prior to treatment. He prides himself on treating each patient as an individual and providing them with education on how to prevent future injuries. He enjoys exercising, playing all kinds of sports, and cheering for his favorite sports teams.

Marcus Ramos, PT

Marcus graduated at Carrington College in Pleasant hill, CA. He has 3 years of experience working in orthopedic outpatient practices in Vallejo. Marcus specializes in orthopedic and sports physical therapy, and has taken continuing education credits involving manual therapy, Kinesio Taping and Mulligan techniques. He is also an active competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling; a hobby which allows him to relate to athletes trying to return to their respective sports. Marcus believes that one of the most satisfying aspects of being a physical therapist is seeing patients return to their previous level of function.

Lary Liwanag, PT

Lary earned his physical therapy degree in Angeles University in the Philippines. He has been treating and caring for patients for over 20 years and places emphasis on a thorough evaluation, manual therapy skills and patient education. He enjoys one-on-one interaction with his patients as they progress through their rehabilitation. He loves spending time with his family friends and enjoys cycling, mountain biking, basketball.

Linda Camilleri, OTR, HTC San Jose State University

Linda graduated from San Jose State University in 1987 with a BS in Occupational Therapy. She started her work in hand therapy at North Bay Hospital under the supervision of a Certified Hand Therapist in 1992. She spent 7 years there before moving on to Grove Andersen, Ghiringhellii where she has worked independently for 15 years with a variety of Acute, Overuse and Chronic hand diagnoses. Her case load consists of private pay industrial and partnership patients. She received her Hand Therapy and Physical Agent Modalities Certification from the Board of Occupational Therapy in 2003. She enjoys spending her free time gardening and in the out of doors hiking and skiing especially in the Sierras.

Ann Natali-Mendoza, PT, DPT, CSCS

Ann grew up in the small town of Chester, CA where she played high school tennis, soccer, and was on the ski team. She went on to get her undergraduate degree in Psychology at University of San Francisco. Ann then moved to Orange County where she completed her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Chapman University. Since graduation, Ann has worked as a traveling PT in Arizona, and at various outpatient clinics in the Bay Area. She enjoys working with a variety of populations and levels of function, helping patients reach their maximum potential. Ann has taken many continuing education courses including Performance Movement Techniques by Rocktape, as well as Mulligan and Maitland manual therapy courses. Ann has also completed training to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), and plans to begin a yearlong Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapy program (COMT) this spring. During her free time, Ann practices yoga and enjoys hiking and camping with her husband and dog. She continues to play tennis, and ski (when it’s not too cold) and is currently trying to learn how to golf, although she has yet to make it past the driving range.

Benicia

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

 

Jeremy Faust, MPT, CSCS, Clinic Director

Jeremy received his Master’s degree in Physical Therapy from Loma Linda University in 2003. He obtained his certification as a Certified Sports and Conditioning Specialist from the NSCA in 2005. He has focused his work in the outpatient therapy setting for the majority of his career. He has taken many continuing education courses over the years with emphasis on the Mulligan Concept, Kinesiotaping, manual therapy, and neurological rehabilitation.

Jeremy believes in treating the patient as a whole and finding the true cause of the problem prior to treatment. He prides himself on treating each patient as an individual and providing them with education on how to prevent future injuries. He enjoys exercising, playing all kinds of sports, and cheering for his favorite sports teams.

Christina Merkl, PT, DPT

Christina is originally from upstate NY and obtained her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University at Buffalo. After working for 3 years in New York, she moved to Phoenix, AZ where she had the opportunity to work with several high-level athletes and learn several Manual Therapy approaches. She has now made the Bay Area her home and enjoys working with all populations. Christina enjoys being active and spending time with her husband and their 2 boys.

Eydee Mazenko, PTA, CMT

Eydee received her Associates of Science degree in Physical Therapy in 1998. She has spent the past 20 years working in the outpatient orthopedic setting. She has taken many continuing education courses over the years. Her passion is in manual therapy and she is an Advanced John Barnes Myofascial Release therapist. She is dedicated to health and wellness and integrates Pilates and yoga into rehabilitation. In her free time, she enjoys competitive sailing, cycling, and hiking.