Back to Backpacks

It’s almost the time of year when green leaves turn fiery, and days get shorter. Soon the roads will be peppered with the surest sign of summer’s end: school buses. As students prepare to re-enter the classroom — some for the first time in a long time — and families shop for back-to-school supplies, the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation and Wellness Center has tips on how to help kids avoid discomfort and potential injury by considering an oft-overlooked culprit: the backpack.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that kids’ full backpack weight should fall between 10-20% of total body weight and one study revealed that the average high schooler’s backpack weighed in at nearly 19lbs. That’s a lot of weight for young people to carry around. Sarah Triano, OTR/L, RVNAhealth Occupational Therapist, shared the following tips to prevent backpack injuries:

Buy the Right Size
The backpack should not exceed the length of a child’s back. If it falls more than 3” below the child’s waist with the straps secured comfortably, it is too large

Consider the Straps
Straps should fit snugly around the shoulders without a large gap; Both straps should be used to balance the weight evenly across the back and chest; and thicker straps are preferable to thin which can cause circulation problems and extremity tingling/numbness

Lift With the Legs
When picking up the backpack up from the floor, bend at the knees and avoid bending at the waist which stresses back, shoulder, and neck muscles

“Wearing a backpack inappropriately won’t necessarily have an impact straight away,” says Triano, “but it will lead to a build-up of postural strain that may result in injury weeks, months, or even years down the road.  That’s why proper usage, plus keeping the weight to a minimum, is important.”

Should injury develop, Triano recommends early intervention as the best course of action. “Without proper treatment, a small strain can quickly become a more complicated situation.” she notes.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with an RVNAhealth Rehabilitation therapist, call (203) 438-7862 or visit

And now for all you history buffs — the origin of the current-day backpack:

A marriage proposal is largely responsible for the modern-day nylon, double-strap, zipped accessory seen at bus stops around the country. Murray Pletz and Skip Yowell, cofounders of a 1960’s, Seattle-based, outdoor gear company, re-developed a pack concept created by Gerry Cunningham of Gerry Outdoors, for a nylon daypack designed for skiers and hikers but neither knew how to sew. Pletz’s girlfriend, Jan Lewis, an unemployed teacher, owned a sewing machine and Pletz offered her more than a partnership in the company if she came onboard. If she accepted Pletz’s marriage proposal, the company would bear her name. In 1969, JanSport was born. Over the next two decades companies like LL Bean joined the competition and by the late 1980s nearly every kid in America sported a backpack for schoolbooks and supplies.

While we’re on the topic of school, read up on Back to School Fuel and how to keep those daily lunches healthy — and interesting.  


Get to the Starting Line with RVNAhealth

August 4 2021:  In just over three months time, Andrea McGowan will be standing on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island, about to embark on one of life’s fascinating journeys: the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon. Between now and then, Andrea will increase her weekly running mileage; conquer distances she has never approached before; and will log hundred of miles on the roads. Andrea is doing the race not only for personal challenge and fun, but to raise funds for Girls on the Run NYC, a not-for-profit organization with a mission near and dear to her heart.

To get to the NYC Marathon starting line feeling her best, it’s Andrea’s job to stay healthy and strong, which is exactly what brought her to RVNAhealth on a recent weekday evening.  Andrea came for a Running Evaluation with RVNAhealth physical therapist, Kate Campbell, DPT.

“I’m so excited to be training for and running the NYC Marathon,” says McGowan. “I feel great right now, and I want to keep it that way. I’ve had shin splints, occasional Achilles tendinitis, and some toe pain in the past, and I want to keep those at bay, so I can enjoy my increased fitness, and relish the race experience.”

“Training for a marathon — or any race for that matter, “says Campbell, “is a true investment of time, energy, and emotion. You want to stand on that starting line confident, strong, and ready to achieve your goal. It’s no fun to race injured or tentative. Our Running Evaluation is an intensive assessment that helps you understand your strengths and vulnerabilities. Andrea is smart to be doing this proactively, so nothing will sideline her training or compromise her race.”

The 90-minute evaluation includes video analysis of running mechanics; strength assessment of muscles related to proper mechanics and injury prevention; flexibility assessment; a foot and shoe analysis; and an individualized home exercise program based on the evaluation results and aligned with personal goals.

Meet Andrea McGowan

Andrea McGowan, at left, with Kate Campbell, DPT

Q:  How many years have you been running?
A:   I have been running for about 10 years, but have competed in other sports my whole life.

Q:  What did you learn in your Running Evaluation with Kate?
A:   I learned so much about my stride; where I should be striking the ground; where my feet should land with regard to my body, and much more! I also learned some great exercises that can help me prevent injuries.

Q: When did it first occur to you that you wanted to run a marathon?
A: After I did my first half-marathon in 2017 (Fairfield Faxon), I think it ignited the idea! I like to push myself and having a goal to work toward really helps my mental health while improving my workouts! I decided to take a gap year before I start medical school in 2022, so now feels like the perfect time!

Q: Do you know what you’ll be focusing on in medical school?
A: I’m interested in working in gastroenterology or women’s health! I truly haven’t decided, but I hope to do research and practice clinically. (By the way, Andrea is going to medical school at the University of Michigan. Go Andrea!)  

Q: How is training going?
A: Training is going well! I look forward to my workouts after I finish my work day. I have been following a training plan that was recommended to me by a few other runners. I am trying to be super intentional with my workouts and also with my recovery. I am increasing my mileage gradually each week.

Q: Do you think you’ll be a multi-marathoner, or ‘retire’ after NYC and move on to other pursuits?
A: I can definitely see myself catching the marathon bug because I like working toward goals! I think it will be a matter of how this one goes and how much time I have in the future.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about Girls on the Run (GOTR)?
A: Absolutely! Girls on the Run NYC is a nonprofit organization that empowers young girls through a transformative running-based curriculum. The program focuses on building skills surrounding connection, confidence, self-esteem, and goal-setting all with the overarching goal of helping girls recognize their limitless potential!  I am so excited to be part of the GOTR NYC Marathon team. In today’s world, girls are constantly greeted with the idea that they are not enough and that they need to change themselves in millions of ways to meet societal ideals. I love that GOTR works to challenge those beliefs and empower girls to be their authentic selves.

To learn more, or schedule an RVNAhealth Running Evaluation, contact, or call 203-438-7862.  

Direct Access: What it is and why you want to know about it

Much as a dented car does not get fixed by parking it on the side of the road, nor does a body hindered by injury or pain get healed without attention. Injuries and pain require evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.  Lucky for us, the State of Connecticut offers a healthcare benefit that simplifies the process of getting treated. It’s called Direct Access and it’s a benefit worth knowing about.

Direct Access is a statewide program that eliminates the need for a primary care physician referral prior to seeing a Rehabilitation Therapist. The streamlined process — which allows up to six visits with an RVNAhealth physical therapist at the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center without a physician referral — is both cost-effective and allows individuals to enjoy swifter diagnosis and relief. In other words, it helps you get better faster.

This little-known benefit began in Connecticut in 2006 to provide patients more immediate diagnosis and relief.  “Direct Access is an expedited way to get to the root cause and treat, rather than just self-diagnose — or ignore — both of which can prolong the issue but are tempting when the process of getting to a therapist is belabored,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth Director of Rehabilitation Therapies. “Ultimately, Direct Access allows you to get in quickly to increase stability, relieve discomfort, and prevent worsening,”

Weiss encourages those with intermittent pain, mild injury, mobility limitations, or other chronic conditions to leverage the Direct Access program not just for minimization of discomfort but for proper diagnosis and treatment. “Often patients self-treat without success because symptoms are not always representative of the core issue,” says Weiss. “For example, neck issues can present as wrist pain so tending to the wrist won’t address the root cause and won’t provide much relief, especially long term. In many cases, the six visits granted through Direct Access get an individual well on their way to healing.”

Direct access can also benefit individuals with lingering difficulties from a health episode, like swallowing, fine motor skills, or communication. In these cases, Direct Access provides a fast track to restorative visits with an appropriate clinician.

At RVNAhealth, the rehabilitation team also collaborates with insurance providers and primary care physicians to coordinate coverage and treatment so patients can focus on wellness. For more information or to schedule a Direct Access assessment, visit or call  (203) 438-7862.


RVNAhealth Heads to the Ball Fields

We all need children in our lives, which is why RVNAhealth was especially honored and happy to sponsor a minor league team in the New Milford Youth Baseball and Softball League this past spring. RVNAhealth and New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice merged last November, opening the way for expansion teams and brand new sponsorships. Go team! Continue reading

RVNAhealth Talks OT on ‘Lutheran Home Live’

Recently RVNAhealth had a chance to discuss Occupational Therapy with Wendy Mutter, Marketing Director and Admissions Liaison from Lutheran Home of Southbury.  Wendy hosts a regular series called Lutheran Home Live, profiled on, aiming to educate the Southbury public on available health and aging services.  Danielle Taibi MOTR/L, CDP (below, left), a licensed Occupational Therapist since 2013 and Home Health Aide Supervisor for RVNAhealth StayWELL Services, had a chance to talk about RVNAhealth services and cover the basics of Occupational Therapy and its approach.

Danielle Taibi, MOTR/L, CDP

Danielle began by explaining the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy – a topic very often misunderstood.  Occupational Therapy often focuses on addressing an injury or illness that has disrupted a person’s normal activities of daily life – activities as basic as eating, bathing, dressing, for example – and then helping that person regain function.  Typically, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist will have the same goals for a patient’s recovery, but their approach and techniques will differ.  Occupational Therapy focuses less on bio-mechanical exercise — typical of physical therapy — and more on common meaningful activities and fine motor skills to help one regain their optimal function.  Danielle provided the example of using laundry folding as a functional Occupational Therapy technique to work on a person’s range of motion improvement.

Falls prevention was another topic discussed and of frequent importance to Occupational Therapists working in the home.  More than 1 in 4 older adults fall every year and 60% of these falls happen in the home.  When an Occupational Therapist enters a home to work on mobility issues, falls prevention is a priority and can be addressed through a home assessment.  An Occupational Therapist can identify risks in the home and make recommendations, often starting with the removal or securing of area rugs and electrical wires and assessing the bathroom for possible assistance equipment needs or grab bars.  While often simple recommendations, changes such as these can make a significant difference to remaining safe in one’s home.

RVNAhealth offers Occupational Therapy services both in the home and at our outpatient Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, located in Ridgefield.  Please visit our website to learn more about RVNAhealth’s Occupational Therapy services and team.  And for more information specific to falls prevention, please see RVNAhealth’s recent Falls Prevention webinar.

Thank you to Wendy Mutter of the Lutheran Home of Southbury for profiling Occupational Therapy and RVNAhealth.  And thank you to On the Mend Medical Supplies & Equipment for hosting the interview in their wonderful store in Southbury.  You can view the full video interview here.

For more information on Occupational Therapy or other services provided by RVNAhealth, please email or contact us at 203-438-5555 x2.

Sammi McLemore Gets to the Root of the Problem

Historically, RVNAhealth has served a predominately ‘mature’ crowd, representative of many of those in need of visiting nursing and rehabilitation for illness and injury. But over the decades, as we all began to realize that prevention is as important as treatment,  RVNAhealth has added numerous services and programs appropriate for all ages — well child physicals and immunizations, flu shots, travel health, and Nurse-Family Partnership to name a few.

So now it’s not uncommon to see youthful faces on premises and at our clinics and programs. And it’s still always a delight.  Recently, we spied Ridgefield High School senior, Samantha (Sammi) McLemore in the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center keeping pace on the treadmill.

Sammi, who has been running for four years, was at RVNAhealth for a running assessment with Kate Campbell, DPT, hoping to get some insight into a recurring injury that wasn’t going away. “I had no idea what I was doing wrong,” she explains, “and how I could strengthen my weaknesses to avoid future injury.”  Sammi came to RVNAhealth to get to the root of the problem.

“I learned which muscle was the cause of my pain and how to address my problem. The exercises and personal plan I received will set me on a path to recovery and injury-free running!,” she says. “Also, it was really helpful to go over the exercises in person and see the pictures that illustrated how my form was hurting rather than helping my running.”

“It’s always inspiring to work with athletes, but runners have a special sensibility,” says physical therapist Kate Campbell, whose focus is on comprehensive sports injury therapy and prevention education and programming.  “They are extremely motivated to address an injury or issue, so they can return to full form. Not running for an extended length of time, is not an appealing option for them.”

But a runner needn’t wait for an injury to get a running assessment.  “I would completely recommend going for an analysis even if you aren’t injured,” say Sammi, “to see what you can do to prevent future injuries and fix any problems!”

Excellent idea! To learn more or schedule a running assessment, call the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center at 203-438-7862.


Meet RVNAhealth’s Kate Campbell, DPT

The flip of a light switch may have determined Kate Campbell’s career trajectory.

At sixteen, Campbell was a competitive gymnast and was severely injured, requiring physical therapy, a vocation she considered at the discouragement of many because of the competition and excessive paperwork. She recalls sitting with an ice pack on her knee watching physical therapists in matching polo shirts helping patients on various exercise machines when an older gentleman flipping a nearby light switch caught her eye.

Up, on; down, off. Up, on; down, off. Up, on; down, off.

Campbell realized that the man was re-learning the most basic task so he could independently return to life as he once knew it. Something that many of us take for granted, turning a light on or off, was the focus of his intense effort that day; Campbell was hooked. “Watching him flipping that switch up and down…it was like my own switch went on. I knew I wanted to spend my life helping people just like him.”

And help them, she does.

Kate Campbell is a physical therapist with RVNAhealth focusing on comprehensive sports injury therapy and prevention education and programming where she applies a comprehensive approach to healing. A triathlete and accomplished life-long athlete, Campbell believes fervently in injury-prevention education which she does regularly at the Golf Performance Center in Ridgefield (GPC), an RVNAhealth partner in wellness. More recently, she began offering running evaluations to assess individual strength, mechanics, flexibility and foot and shoe analysis for runners of all experience levels. “Avoiding injury isn’t about luck,” Campbell says, “it’s about understanding how injuries happen.”

When they do, Campbell takes a thorough approach designed to prevent patient hospitalization and restore activity as soon as safely possible with full range of motion restoration. Functional therapy, Campbell calls it, addresses all aspects of recovery including the secondary systems that are affected. “When developing a treatment plan,” Campbell says, “I watch how a patient moves in entirety to identify comprehensive areas of concern. It’s important to consider the systemic connections when approaching healing. If someone has spinal surgery, physical therapy must consider how the spine interacts with other parts of the body to ensure it’s all supported. Ultimately, I want to get people back to doing what they love to do.” Because Campbell supports all facets of the RVNAhealth portfolio, she works with patients of all ages—from the youngest golf students at Golf Performance Center to senior hospice patients grappling with weaknesses impacting their quality of life.

Ultimately, the goal is for Campbell to open her own practice under the RVNAhealth umbrella to serve a different clientele. “I want to bring my expertise to athletes who are hungry for high quality care, in a specialized and sophisticated environment married with all of the resources and support that RVNAhealth can give,” Campbell says.

Her tenured physical therapy career has not been without obstacles, all of which Campbell overcame to become one of only five women in Connecticut board-certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) in Sports Physical Therapy. College advisors discouraged her focus because of saturation in the profession, but she was not dissuaded. “I figured if other students were getting the same advice and changed paths then I would be one of the few graduating with the degree and by the time I was twenty-three, I had earned my Doctorate.”

The journey has been worth it. Of many noteworthy patients, one Ridgefield resident is particularly memorable. The geriatric patient was never going to walk normally again due to a rare kidney disease causing chronic inflammation. The woman loved walking for exercise and when her grandson got engaged, she decided she wanted to walk down the aisle as a surprise to the family. Campbell even secretly measured the length of the aisle to make sure they practiced it. “We got the best video of her standing up from her wheelchair and walking down the aisle with her rollator [a mobility aid on wheels] and her grandson. Those proud moments remind me why I do what I do.”

Learn more about Kate Campbell.  To schedule an appointment with RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness, contact 203-438-7862.