When it comes to kids, it’s more than just young athletes recovering from sports injuries who physical therapists serve. From infants to teens, physical therapists offer a number of health benefits for children suffering ailments ranging from poor posture to sore backs from toting around heavy backpacks.
“Posture is a really big problem for kids,” said Leslie Davis, Clinical Director Tidewater Physical Therapy’s West Point location.
A lot of the time the problem can be traced to weakness in the muscles in the upper and middle of the back, she said.
Even if students try and sit up straight, they can fatigue easily, Davis said.
Physical therapy for those patients often entails strengthening muscles equally with a therapy ball and using core exercises to help them stabilize their posture and keep them more upright, she said.
It takes years to develop bad posture so it can be quite a few visits before the problem is corrected.
Although, Davis noted, young patients see quicker results than geriatric patients.
“You’re going to see results a lot faster,” she said.
Many of today’s young athletes specialize in one sport and play year-round.
“They don’t get a break,” Davis said. “They’re still growing and their muscles don’t catch up with their joints.”
Physical therapists offers expert advice on proper warm-up, emphasizing light jogging and jumping jacks, for example, before stretching rather than stretching cold.
“It’s better than walking out and stretching your hamstrings,” Davis said.
The Downside of Backpacks
One possibly overlooked problem for children can be sore backs related to kids lugging around books and other school-related supplies in heavy backpacks.
When it comes to children wearing backpacks, physical therapists can help parents choose one that fits specifically to their child. Because children are built differently and can have physical limitations, backpacks should be adapted to fit the child.
Physical therapists can also help children improve posture problems, treat pain and correct muscle imbalances that can result from improper backpack use, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. In addition, physical therapists can design individualized fitness programs to help children strengthen muscles in their back, shoulders, neck and elsewhere to help them carry the backpack loads.
Children wearing backpacks should do the following to help prevent injury and pain:
—Use both straps to better distribute the weight. Using one strap means one side of the body bears the weight;
—Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles. The backpack needs to rest evenly in the middle of the back;
—The shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. The straps should not be too loose to allow the backpack to extend below the back;
—Lighten the load keeping the backpack at 10 percent to 15 percent or less of the child’s body weight. The backpack should contain only the items necessary for the day, with heaviest items closest to the back. Some students even have two sets of books so they don’t have to carry the heaviest books to and from school.
Prescription: Play More!
For younger children, playing helps build strong, healthy bodies and minds.
Really! Just play!
Wondering where to start? The APTA has a list of games and activities kids can play that was developed in collaboration with a group of physical therapists.
The activities feature names like “Hula Hoop Tire Run” and “A Walk On the Wild Side.”
Here’s the link: http://ow.ly/IdKfs
Finding a Physical Therapist
Many of the physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy Inc. hold Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy allowing them to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription. As part of your healthcare team, a physical therapist will make an assessment of your condition and create a plan to start you on the road to wellness. Our team will communicate with your physician of record and obtain a referral, if necessary, for your continued treatment. We will also work with your insurance carrier to make sure services are covered by your plan. To make your own appointment, find a clinic near you.