Backpack Safety & Back To School Advice From Chiropractor In Amarillo

Chiropractor in Amarillo TX, Dr. Jeff Williams, weighs in on backpack safety

In this day and age of over-information, we here at Creek Stone want to make sure you have the best information on backpack safety; how to wear them, how to use them, and how much to put in them. Most Doctors of Chiropractic are biomechanical experts and typically know what is going on when it comes to the correct, safest ways to use backpacks for school. Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Jeff Williams is a specialist in orthopedics and is able to guide the way. 

Did you know that 96% of children between the ages of 8-12 carry backpacks a large portion of the day when school is in session? Of that 96%, roughly 1/3 of them carry them improperly. Just imagine the amount of stress and strain those little ones are putting on themselves at such an early stage in their development.

Did You Know?

First, did you know that low back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world?

Globally, it’s the leading cause of days off of work. Did you know that low back pain is one of the main reasons a person would have been prescribed an opioid? By now, we should all be painfully aware of the issues that come with opioids. It is estimated that over 72,000 opioid-related deaths occurred in 2017 alone. The numbers are not yet in for 2018.

Aren’t Kids Good to Go Though?

We have an overall feeling that kids don’t really suffer from back or neck pain and that is just false. They absolutely suffer from low back pain and neck pain and, because we don’t pay attention to our kids’ nagging issues, they have the potential to become chronic and difficult to resolve when they reach an age that they finally seek treatment all on their own. 

That is not including young athletes that are putting stress and strain on still-growing, young bones.

It is just a fact that children develop bad habits early on. This goes for lots of different aspects in their lives from chewing nails, to posture, and in the way they sit, study, and…..worst of all….how they interact with their electronic devices. Have you heard the term “Text Neck” yet? 

What’s The Point?

The point is that your child is CERTAINLY susceptible to neck and back pain. They suffer from it which means they just have to deal with it. They also have bad habits that compound the issue. When we talk about backpack use, don’t just read and then skirt the issue. Take it seriously and take action with the way your child is using the backpack. As a parent, backpack safety is literally our duty.

Here are some tips that can make a world of difference in your child’s back and neck pain if you stay on them and make them do it correctly. 

You need to know that a bigger backpack is not a better backpack. What happens when you buy a bigger house? Most people will get more stuff to fill it up. What happens when you have a larger backpack is that kids pack more and more stuff into it making it much heavier than it should be. Make sure it is just big enough to carry the necessities but not any larger.

Weight is the main issue when it comes to backpack safety. The weight of the backpack should be NO HEAVIER than 15% of the child’s body weight.


Never heavier than 15% of the kid’s body weight!

That needs to be crystal clear. For a kid that weighs 150lbs, the backpack should be no heavier than 22.5lbs. If the child weighs 100lbs, the backpack should be no heavier than 15lbs. If you do not know how to calculate 15%, enter the child’s weight into a calculator and then multiply it by .15. Your answer is 15% of the child’s weight. 

Not only is it bad to have the backpack overweight and pulling down on your child, but a heavy backpack also causes your child to constantly lean forward to aid them in supporting the weight of the backpack. This leads to other issues like muscle imbalance and strain. 

The width of the backpack straps are related to the weight issue as well. If a child has a heavy backpack with thin shoulder straps, you can just imagine those thin straps digging into the traps and shoulder areas of your kids. This can literally cause nerve and circulatory issues. Make sure, as we said, the backpack is not too heavy but, in addition, make sure the straps are wide and preferably padded. 

How do you identify that there is a problem?

One sign that is easy to notice is when your kiddo has a hard time picking up the backpack and putting it on or off.

Clearly, the bag is too heavy!!

Another sign that some changes need to be made with backpack safety is if your child starts leaning forward in order to support the weight of the backpack. They do this because their low back takes some of the load rather than the load being solely on the child’s shoulders. If the bag were at the proper weight, there would not be enough load to matter. The bag is too heavy when your child is doing this. 

Also, if your kiddo starts complaining of neck and back pain unrelated to sports activities. Make sure you are paying attention to that backpack if they are starting to fuss about pain. 

Small changes you can easily make that make a big difference in backpack safety

  • I am sure you have guessed at this point the need to lighten up the backpack if it is any heavier than 15% of the child’s body weight. 
  • Another useful tip is to tighten the shoulder straps causing the backpack to hang close to the child’s body. This keeps the bag from swinging around and placing odd stresses and strain on the child’s body. 
  • Never allow the bottom of the backpack to hang any lower than four inches below the beltline. A low-hanging backpack will cause the child to lean forward to carry it which leads to an increased load on the shoulders. That’s not a good idea.
  • Make sure your child understands the importance of using BOTH shoulder straps when carrying the backpack. When they only use one shoulder, obviously the weight is only on one side instead of the load being distributed evenly across the torso. To compensate for this unevenness, the child will lean to the opposite side to walk and try to support the bag. Again, this is a terrible idea and leads to issues with the shoulder, mid-back, low back, and muscle spasms. Just use them both. 
  • Adjustable straps are very important. They allow you to do a better job when fitting the backpack to your particular child. 

Backpack safety is easy when you think about it but not everyone knows the basics. Help your fellow Moms and Dads and share our tips with them so we can make sure those kiddos are doing backpacks the right way!

If you have any questions, feel free to call us here at Creek Stone Integrated Care at 806-355-3000. In addition, if we can help you or your family members with a musculoskeletal complaint like the neck, joint, mid-back, or low back pain we can get you set up. We can usually accommodate same-day appointments. 


Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM is a Fellowship-trained Neuromusculoskeletal 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's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Care at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109