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Backpacks Done Right: Excellent Tips From Amarillo Chiropractor

Backpacks Done Right – Excellent Tips From Amarillo Chiropractor

Back Packs Done Right - Excellent Tips From Amarillo Chiropractor

If you listen to anyone at all when it comes to the right way to have your kids use backpacks, listen to a biomechanical expert. Most Doctors of Chiropractic are indeed biomechanical experts and typically know what is going on when it comes to the correct, safest ways to use backpacks for school. 

It is a fact 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 and we just cannot have that.

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 ever been prescribed an opioid? By now, we should all be painfully aware of the issues that come with opioids. 

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 become chronic and difficult to resolve when they reach an age that they finally seek treatment all on their own. 

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….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. 

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 right. 

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. 

Weight is the main issue when it comes to backpacks. The weight of the backpack should be NO HEAVIER than 15% of the child’s body weight. Ever. 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 back overweight and pulling down on your kid, a heavy backpack causes your child to constantly lean forward to aid them in supporting the weight of the backpack. 

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 the backpack 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

  • 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 belt line. 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 with 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 neck, joint, mid-back, or low back pain we can get you set up. We can usually accommodate same-day appointments. 

Jeff Williams, DC

Chiropractor Amarillo



  • Advanced Certification in Whiplash Biomechanics & Traumatology
  • Kennedy Certification in Non-surgical Spinal Decompression
  • Chairman of the Chiropractic Development Initiative for the Texas Chiropractic Association
  • Host of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast (www.chiropracticforward.com)
  • Author of “The Remarkable Truth About Chiropractic: A Unique Journey Through the Research”
  • Evidence-based research blogger & vlogger


For other tips on posture and its importance, visit this article on our Creek Stone blog:

What Are Ergonomics and Why You Should Care


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