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

San Juan Capistrano

Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Tuesday: 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Thursday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm

Services

  • Manual Therapy
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  • Neck and Spine Injuries
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  • Ergonomic Assessment
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  • Balance & Gait Training
  • Surgical Rehab
  • Sports Therapy
  • Sports Injury Rehab
  • Manual Therapy
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  • Conditioning
  • Pain Control
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Dr. Matthew Kirsten PT, DPT, TPI Level 1 Cert.

Dr. Matthew Kirsten is a local to Mission Viejo having graduated from Mission Viejo High School in 2004. Matt received his Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton in 2009 where he also competed as a Division 1 pole vaulter on the track and field team. After his graduation from CSUF, Matt returned to his high school to coach the pole vault team. Matt went on to get his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine in San Diego. Matt has since received certification from the Titleist Performance Institute as a level 1 medical professional. He continues to enjoy working with athletes of all skill levels and getting his patients back to the activities they are passionate about. In his spare time, Matt enjoys playing ice hockey and watching sports with his wife Jennifer and son Logan.

Robert Oakes, PTA

Bobby Oakes grew up in Capistrano Beach, California and attended St. Margaret’s Episcopal High School in San Juan Capistrano. He received his Physical Therapy Assistant License in October of 2018 after attending American Career College in Anaheim. Bobby is also Titleist Performance Institute Certified in addition to his physical therapy credentials. During his free time Bobby enjoys playing golf, surfing, running, and traveling. Bobby strives to provide the best treatment for every patient he sees and will always go the extra mile to provide the best care.

 

Jessica England, Patient Service Rep.

West Covina

Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Wednesday: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm

Services

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Saousan Ramadan, PT, DPT

Saousan is originally from Boston, MA and obtained her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Simmons University. She began working with pediatrics, and has since worked with sports related injuries and the geriatric population.   She enjoys working with all populations and is an advocate for patient education and injury prevention. In her spare time, she loves to travel and has been to 18 countries (so far). She speaks 5 languages conversationally in addition to being bilingual in Arabic and English.

Ed Detels OTR/L CHT, Certified Hand Therapist

Ed Detels has been practicing hand therapy for over 20 years in Orange County. He has a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and obtained his national designation as a Certified Hand Therapist in 2002. He partnered with PRN to found California Hand Therapy in 2005, which has grown to 11 centers and employs 8 certified hand therapists as the leading outpatient hand therapy group on the West coast. Ed obtained his certification in ASTYM (a soft-tissue mobilization technique) as well as extensive continuing education with custom splinting, kinesiotape application and nerve mobilization. Ed is the father of three.

San Juan Capistrano

Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Tuesday: 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Thursday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm

Services

  • Manual Therapy
  • Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedic Surgery Rehabilitation
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Industrial/ Work Comp Injuries
  • Neck and Spine Injuries
  • Performance Enhancement
  • Ergonomic Assessment
  • Physical Therapy
  • Balance & Gait Training
  • Surgical Rehab
  • Sports Therapy
  • Sports Injury Rehab
  • Manual Therapy
  • Spine Specialists
  • Worker’s Comp Rehab
  • Strengthening
  • Conditioning
  • Pain Control
  • Throwing Rehab
  • ACL Rehab
  • Joint Replacements

Dr. Matthew Kirsten PT, DPT, TPI Level 1 Cert.

Dr. Matthew Kirsten is a local to Mission Viejo having graduated from Mission Viejo High School in 2004. Matt received his Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton in 2009 where he also competed as a Division 1 pole vaulter on the track and field team. After his graduation from CSUF, Matt returned to his high school to coach the pole vault team. Matt went on to get his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine in San Diego. Matt has since received certification from the Titleist Performance Institute as a level 1 medical professional. He continues to enjoy working with athletes of all skill levels and getting his patients back to the activities they are passionate about. In his spare time, Matt enjoys playing ice hockey and watching sports with his wife Jennifer and son Logan.

Robert Oakes, PTA

Bobby Oakes grew up in Capistrano Beach, California and attended St. Margaret’s Episcopal High School in San Juan Capistrano. He received his Physical Therapy Assistant License in October of 2018 after attending American Career College in Anaheim. Bobby is also Titleist Performance Institute Certified in addition to his physical therapy credentials. During his free time Bobby enjoys playing golf, surfing, running, and traveling. Bobby strives to provide the best treatment for every patient he sees and will always go the extra mile to provide the best care.

Jessica England, Patient Service Rep.