Yours In Healing with Dr. Rachel Lys, DPT

BACKPACK TIPS for a Healthy School Year

After spending the summer riding bikes, swimming and playing sports, heading back to the classroom can be a difficult transition for kids.

From poor posture as a result of sitting in desks all day to sports injuries in student athletes, there are a variety of safety concerns that both parents and kids should be aware of before the first day of school begins. Below are some tips that can help every kid stay safe this upcoming school year.

For the Bookworm
• Sitting 101: People aren’t meant to sit for long periods of time, so it’s common for students to exhibit poor posture in the classroom or after school when sitting down to finish homework. To reduce lower neck and back strain, keep these tips in mind:
• Keep feet flat on the floor • Place back firmly against the back of the chair
• Pull the shoulder blades back • Keep work close to the body
• Choosing the Right Backpack: Heavy backpacks can cause musculoskeletal pain and soreness in students. To prevent this from becoming an issue, it is important to take fit into consideration when picking out a backpack. Parents should look for a backpack with padded shoulder straps as well as a hip or sternum belt to improve balance and reduce strain on upper back and shoulder muscles. It is also important to keep in mind that backpacks should not weigh more than 10 percent of a student’s body weight.

For the Social Butterfly
• Combat Text Neck: With school back in session, kids will be catching up with their friends in addition to their studies. Nowadays kids are opting for their smartphones to keep in touch rather than passing around handwritten notes, which can lead to an unnatural posture that is often referred to as text neck. Text neck occurs when someone hunches over with their head lowered and shoulders rolled forward to look at their phone. This can lead to a variety of injuries that impact the neck, back, shoulders and arms.
Since it’s unlikely that teens will be giving up their smartphones, it’s a good idea to learn exercises that can help counteract pain that can occur with text neck. A physical therapist can help you in this department.
Over use Injuries: There are other injuries outside of text neck that can occur with the use of technology. For example, taking selfies can result in an overuse injury that causes inflammation in the tendons that run from the hand to the elbow. This has been referred to as “Selfie Elbow.” To help prevent social butterflies from becoming a victim to this and other technology-related ailments this school year, consult a physical therapist.

For an Athlete
•Play Multiple Sports: There has been a trend of young athletes specializing in one sport recently, but it may be a better idea to play multiple sports. Data shows that early sport diversification is more likely to lead to valuable physical, cognitive and psychosocial skills for young athletes. What’s more, early sport specialization can lead to burnout and increased risk of overuse injuries.
• Protect Your ACL: One of the most common knee injuries is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain or tear.To reduce the number of ACL injuries and improve the outcomes for athletes that suffer an injury, a physical therapist can help design a program which is used for Prevention, Progression and Performance. This program helps minimize the risk of ACL injury and restores strength and normal mechanics post-ACL surgery.
• Getting Smart about Concussions: With any sport comes the risk of injury, and this includes concussions. For this reason, it is important that athletes, coaches and parents are aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions. Baseline testing should also be considered before the fall sport season begins. This test is used as a resource should a concussion occur, so that the concussed brain can be returned back to the baseline stat.

Regardless if a student identifies as a bookworm, social butterfly or athlete (or all of the above!), it is important to take the right steps to ensure a happy and healthy school year. The aforementioned tips can be the first step in making this happen. Remember to wear both shoudler straps on your back pack. Should an injury occur at any point throughout this school year, make sure to request an appointment with your PT.

As always, yours in Healing,
Dr. Rachel Lys, DPT – 631-668-7600