backpack safety

Information For Parents Of Kids Returning To School

Backpacks & School Physicals 

Let's get the easiest information out of the way quickly. Every school-age athlete has to have a physical exam by a healthcare provider. Now that we are an Amarillo medical clinic, we are doing physical exams for your kiddos here at Creek Stone with our Nurse Practitioner, Jason Hathaway. They only cost $25 and can be performed quickly so, as a busy parent, you can get that item checked off of your list quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Call 355-3000 and let's get your child's physical wrapped up. 

Next, your kid is going to be carrying a backpack to school this year and, if it's like the COVID-style year that was 2020, there will be no lockers for the kiddos so they will be carrying everything they need for school right there on their backs. That's a recipe for a bad back when you consider they'll be carrying all of that weight throughout the day all year long. For that reason, and as a chiropractor in Amarillo, I think it's best to do our yearly blog and video on backpack safety and help you and your kids be responsible about the way they're using the backpacks day-to-day. 

Prior to the pandemic becoming such a miserable part of our lives, 96% of children ages 8-12 carried backpacks through their days and it is estimated that around 1/3 of them did so improperly. In a way that causes pain or dysfunction. This is happening at a time when they are still growing and adapting. That, of course, is not an ideal combination. 

Children absolutely deal with back pain too. It's not just us old people that suffer. They too have the strains and stresses of normal life. Don't you remember being at that awkward age in junior high? Of course, you do. 

These stresses can be compounded by bad habits the kids develop. Habits like looking down at their electronic devices the majority of the day, carrying backpacks improperly, or sitting in front of the TV playing video games for hours on end. This sort of deal will have consequences. 

So let's get to the main points and directives on backpack safety for your children. 

Here are some general rules and guidelines you can print out, cut out, and paste on your refrigerator as a reminder each day when they head off to school. 

  1. A bigger backpack is not a better backpack - when you buy a bigger house, you just get more stuff to put in it. If you ladies get a bigger purse, you usually get more stuff to put into it so now you also have a heavier purse. It should be large enough to carry the essential but no bigger than that.
  2. No heavier than 15% of the bodyweight - Weight is the most concerning aspect of carrying things around all day. It is the key factor delivering stress to the child on a day to day basis. For a kid that weighs 150 lbs., the backpack should be no heavier than 22.5 lbs. For a child weighing 100 lbs., it cannot be any heavier than 15 lbs. If you are mathematically challenged, simply enter your child’s weight into a calculator and then multiply their weight by 0.15 to get the weight the backpack should not exceed. Super simple and it is our duty as parents to monitor through the year as we know kids like to add stuff to those backpacks without mentioning it to us. 
  3. Heavy backpacks cause a forward lean - When the backpack is overloaded, it has a tendency to pull down on the shoulders. In response, children commonly adopt a posture of bending forward to carry more of the weight on their backs in an effort to compensate and reduce the strain on their shoulder(s). This is not a good scenario in biomechanical terms. It puts a good amount of strain on low back discs not to mention other issues like muscle imbalance and muscle strain. 
  4. Get the double-wide - The width of shoulder straps is definitely worth talking about. Thin shoulder straps dig into a child’s shoulders and can literally, ultimately cause nerve or circulatory issues. Wide straps are less likely to cause these types of issues. That and recall, no heavier than 15% of the child’s body weight!!
  5. Tighten the straps - Tightening the straps makes the bag hang closer to the child’s body keeping it from swinging around and placing odd and unbalanced stresses on the body.
  6. No low hangers - Do not allow the bottom of the bag to hang lower than four inches below the child’s beltline. Low hanging bags can cause the child to develop a forward-leaning posture. That leads to increased stress and strain on the low back and there is just no logical reason for it in the first place.
  7. Use BOTH straps - Using both straps when carrying the backpack is key. When they only use one strap over one shoulder, the weight is carried only on the one side rather than distributing the load evenly across the body. This causes the kiddo to lean the other way in an effort to compensate. Biomechanically, this is a bad idea. Certainly when this scenario repeats itself day in and day out for months on end. 
  8. Adjustable straps should be used - They allow the parent to more effectively fit the bag to the child keeping the bottom of the bag at or above the beltline and held closer and tighter to the body for a good fit. 


Let us assume your child is not fussing about their backpack. In fact, it is just the opposite. They are packing more and more stuff into it and not telling you. How can you identify problems on your own without them mentioning anything?

  1. The struggle is real - When you see the kiddo struggling a bit to pick the backpack up and get it on their shoulder(s) then you know the bag is clearly too heavy. 
  2. Forward lean - As mentioned previously, in an attempt to take the pressure off of the shoulders and carry more of the weight on the back itself, children commonly adopt a forward-leaning posture. This is another clear sign that the bag is too heavy!
  3. OK, maybe they’re griping - If your child does start complaining of neck and/or back pain unrelated to any activity such as sports or some traumatic event, then it is likely due to the backpack and attention should be given to its proper use. 

Once you really think about backpack safety a little bit, it's really very intuitive and a bit of common sense. Unfortunately, not all of us know the basics. Because of this, I'd ask you to share with your network of parents so we can make sure the children are carrying them correctly and preventing unnecessary back pain going forward. 



Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM is a Fellowship-trained Neuromusculoskeletal specialist, Orthopedic specialist, and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast ( Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at

Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Care at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.  

Jeff S Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP

Jeff S Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP


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