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

 

Armada Physical Therapy – Coors

Hours:
Monday to Friday 7:30am to 6:00pm

Physical Therapy Treatment & Services

  • Fall Prevention Programs
  • Manual Physical Therapy
  • Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
  • Pediatric Orthopedic PT
  • Spine Rehabilitation
  • Sports Medicine
  • Trigger Point Dry Needling
  • Work Injury Rehabilitation

Headshot of Armand Larragoite, a physical therapist in Albuquerque, NMArmand Larragoite, PT, DPT, Clinic Director

Armand received his doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2015 from the University of New Mexico. He began working in outpatient physical therapy right after school and is ASTM certified. Armand uses manual therapy in combination with exercise and dry needling level 1 to help return patients to their previous level of function. He enjoys working with all populations especially high school athletes for return to sport and injury prevention. In his free time Armand enjoys competing in CrossFit and camping with his wife and two dogs.

Armada Physical Therapy – Jefferson

Hours:
Monday to Friday 7:30am to 6:00pm

Best Physical Therapy Services

  • Fall Prevention Programs
  • Manual Physical Therapy
  • Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
  • Pediatric Orthopedic PT
  • Spine Rehabilitation
  • Sports Medicine
  • Trigger Point Dry Needling
  • Work Injury Rehabilitation

Elizabeth Lonergan, PT, DPT, Clinic Director

Elizabeth has been practicing as an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist since her graduation from the University of New Mexico Doctor of Physical Therapy program in 2015. She is passionate about using her skills in manual therapy and exercise prescription to decrease pain and return patients to the activities they love. Elizabeth enjoys working with athletes and holds a certificate in returning injured athletes to sport. As a classically trained dancer, Elizabeth has a particular interest in the treatment of dancers. She has passed the Cechetti National Student Ballet Exams, giving her a strong foundation in ballet technique, artistry, dance theory, and anatomy of the dancer.

She received advanced education in dance, anatomy, and biomechanics at New Mexico State University, where she was a member of the Contemporary Dance Theater. Here she was able to expand her knowledge of dance to many different styles including modern, jazz, contemporary, ballroom, and flamenco. Upon graduation from NMSU with her BA in Kinesiology and Minors in Dance technique education and psychology, Elizabeth moved to Albuquerque where she danced professionally with Ballet Repetory Theater of New Mexico.

Elizabeth has completed the best physical therapy training with Marika Molnar, the physical therapy provider for New York City Ballet. She has also attended courses with NYU’s Harkness Center for Dance Injuries for dance specific rehabilitation, shoe fitting, and dance nutrition. Elizabeth has had the opportunity to work with many dance companies in Albuquerque and is the premier doctor of physical therapy for Keshet Dance Company. Outside of work, Elizabeth continues to dance and enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 dogs.

Armada Physical Therapy – Los Lunas

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

Physical Therapist Services

  • Fall Prevention Programs
  • Manual Physical Therapy
  • Post-Surgical Rehab Physical Therapy
  • Pediatric Orthopedic PT
  • Spine Rehabilitation
  • Sports Medicine
  • Trigger Point Dry Needling
  • Work Injury Rehabilitation

Meet Our Clinicians

Melody Rattanapote-Malaney, PT, DPT, Clinic Director

Mel is a native New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque. She graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Missouri State University before returning to New Mexico to work in outpatient, inpatient, and home health rehab physical therapy settings. Mel has spent her career in the rural communities of Socorro and Valencia counties and has treated many patients from age 0 to 97 with a variety of musculoskeletal and neurological pathologies. She has specialized training in functional dry needling in addition to other familiar evidence-based physical therapy interventions and techniques. Mel prefers individualized treatment sessions and is passionate about patient education and the restoration of function and quality of life. When not in the clinic, Mel spends her time with her husband and furry children and enjoys photography, hiking, and road biking

Armada Physical Therapy – Menaul

Hours:
Monday to Friday 7:30am to 6:00pm

Services

  • Fall Prevention Programs
  • Manual Physical Therapy
  • Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
  • Pediatric Orthopedic PT
  • Spine Rehabilitation
  • Sports Medicine
  • Trigger Point Dry Needling
  • Work Injury Rehabilitation

K. Violet Dinnen, DPT, Clinic Director

Violet received her Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of New Mexico. Her practice relies on evidence-based manual therapy techniques and she particularly enjoys treating foot, ankle, and upper extremity conditions. She has taken several continuing education courses that focus on biomechanical principles and manual therapy treatments. Outside of work, she likes to exercise, golf, practice yoga, and travel whenever possible.

Tracy Mechenbier, DPT

Tracy has practiced primarily in the outpatient orthopedic setting and has also continued to work in the inpatient neurological rehab setting, on a PRN basis to keep up her skills. She obtained her B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of New Mexico before attaining her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from UNM in 2015. Tracy’s strengths are in constructing creative exercise programs relevant to patient’s lifestyles, as well as performing manual therapy techniques. She currently utilizes dry needling for pain reduction and to address ROM limitations. Prior to working as a physical therapist, Tracy was a personal trainer and soccer coach. She played competitive soccer throughout her youth and into college. Currently she spends her free time staying active with her husband and four young children.

Armada Physical Therapy – Rio Rancho

Hours:
Monday, Wednesday 8:00am to 6:00pm
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 7:30am to 2:30pm

Services

  • Fall Prevention Programs
  • Manual Physical Therapy
  • Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
  • Pediatric Orthopedic PT
  • Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilizations (IASTYM)
  • Spine Rehabilitation
  • Sports Medicine
  • Peri-Neural and Trigger Point Dry Needling
  • Work Injury Rehabilitation

Timothy Serrano, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, Clinic Director

A California native, Timothy, moved to New Mexico and completed his undergraduate degree from UNM in 2008. He then took time to study Black Mantled Howler monkeys in Costa Rica and Ecuador as a research assistant before earning his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina in 2013. He has since earned several advanced certifications including his Diploma of Osteopractic (2015) from the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) that comprises certifications in Spinal Manipulation (Cert. SMT) and musculoskeletal and peri-neural Dry Needling (Cert. DN). In 2018 he completed an Orthopedic Fellowship accredited with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT) which is a national organization committed to excellence in Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy practice, education and research. During his Fellowship he helped conduct research on cervicogenic headaches (headaches that are caused by the upper neck) with AAMT. As of 2019 he is one of eight with the FAAOMPT distinction in the entire state of New Mexico.  He has  a tremendous passion for helping all patients with any musculoskeletal conditions and works well with patients in targeting and achieving their specific goals for returning and restoring them back to their desired quality of life. When he is not in the clinic, he enjoys playing board games with friends and family, hiking, camping or exploring the outdoors with his dog Rupert.

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