Tidewater Physical Therapy Offers Backpack Safety Tips for Students

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Back pain is not uncommon in students carrying a heavy load, but parents can make adjustments to ensure their child remain injury-free.

Tidewater Physical Therapy is an independent, out patient practice.

Tidewater Physical Therapy was founded in 1986 and has clinics throughout southeastern and central Virginia.

As students head into the latter half of the fall semester, and backpacks purchased during back to school shopping have been well used, Tidewater Physical Therapy clinicians encourage parents to take a moment to re-examine the load their child carries.

“It can be quite a heavy load and a lot for those little shoulders and backs,” said Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Clinical Director at its West Point location, Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT. “The first question you should ask is if they are carrying too much.”

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, a child should carry no more than 15 percent of their body weight to reduce risks of lower back pain and falling.

“When you’re looking to purchase a backpack, or examining the one your child is already using, make sure it’s a lightweight bag so that the weight of the bag itself doesn’t add to the load,” said Leslie Davis, PT, DPT, a physical therapist who specializes in working with pediatric patients in Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Hidenwood clinic in Newport News. “Bags with multiple compartments are great because they help distribute the weight of the contents across the back.”

Backpacks are still a better option verses messenger bags that sling across the shoulder or briefcases, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

Physicians and physical therapists also recommend students use their desks and lockers as much as possible during the day. Don’t carry items unnecessary to the various activities throughout the school.

Students should consider only bringing home the books they need each night for homework, bending at the knees to grab their bags with both hands before getting it up on their shoulders and using both shoulder straps.

The heaviest books should be placed closest to the back of the bag.

“Don’t be afraid to literally weigh your child’s backpack,” Bailey said. “This way, you’ll know exactly what they are carrying and can make adjustments from there.”

And watch how your child moves when they are wearing their backpack.

“If they have any changes in posture or are complaining of tingling or numbness you may need to adjust the bag and the weight they are carrying,” Davis said. “Look for red shoulder marks, too.”


Tidewater Physical Therapy remains a physical therapist-owned, independent, outpatient physical therapy practice, with 33 locations across Southeast and Central Virginia and Performance Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.

For more information about Tidewater Physical Therapy, visit http://www.tpti.com.

Learn more about the Tidewater Performance Centers at http://www.tidewaterperform.com.

Additional tips on backpack safety can be found at APTA.org, kidshealth.org and Landsend.com.

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Stephanie Heinatz
Tidewater Physical Therapy, Inc.
since: 10/2010
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