Back Pain can seem like one of life’s unsolvable mysteries. One day, the back pain wasn’t there. The next day, you can’t straighten up. Where did the pain come from? Why did it suddenly appear? Chiropractors have long noted that many of life’s daily habits have a direct and long-lasting impact on your health. One such habit that can result in long-term problems is carrying a wallet in your back pocket. If you carry a wallet, there are excellent reasons why you should consider carrying the wallet somewhere other than your back pocket or hip pocket.
The wallet presses deeply into the soft tissues on your buttock. A very important nerve travels through that region from the lumbar spine down into the legs: the sciatic nerve. Prolonged pressure or impingement on the sciatic nerve can result in a pattern of radiating pain and numbness called sciatica. In fact, sciatica from carrying a wallet is so common that it is often referred to as “wallet sciatica” or ” hip pocket syndrome.”
The bulk of the wallet makes a significant impact on your posture. When you are seated normally in a chair (without a wallet in your pocket), the whole weight of your head and trunk are supported by two bony points in your pelvis, one on either side. These bones are called the ischial tuberosities. Some of the pressure when sitting is also relieved by the gluteal muscles and other soft tissues in your buttocks. So the whole weight of your body is evenly distributed throughout the whole pelvis, thanks to the ischial tuberosities.
A wallet in the hip pocket significantly changes the way you sit. Let’s pretend you carry your wallet in your right back pocket. Instead of sitting evenly and comfortably, the wallet raises the right ischial tuberosity slightly off the chair. This shifts more of your body weight to the left ischial tuberosity. The intended symmetry of the body’s structure has now been erased. The pelvis is now shifted from a level surface to an un-level surface. Unless the lean is corrected, your whole body will be at a slight angle, which will literally affect the way you see the world. Your body has a special reflex called a righting reflex, which is a subconscious and innate desire to keep your eyes level with the horizon. Since your pelvis is no longer level, some other actions are necessary in order to bring your eyes level again.
Your body will, ever so subtly, use muscles of your low back to pull the lumbar vertebrae back into an upright position. At the same time, muscles in your neck will pull down on the side of the head. However, these reflex actions have now resulted in minor side-to-side curvatures of both the neck and lumbar spine.
If the wallet is habitually carried in the back pocket, these curves will slowly grow larger and the body will accept these curvatures as its new “normal” posture. This is not a healthy situation. The curvatures are maintained by asymmetrical muscles, which are now controlled by dysfunctional nerves. Discs may be more easily displaced from abnormal curvatures. Sever disc degeneration is common among abnormal curvatures, since the normal motion of each vertebral joint is disrupted. Abnormal curvatures increase tension on the spinal cord itself, which is already attached to the spinal canal, possibly causing further nerve dysfunction.
These abnormal effects on the lumbar curve and muscles predispose you to low back pain. Over many years, the joints become more unstable and even more degenerated… Until one day your back “goes out” and you can’t think of why it happened. An easy solution to all of these long- and short-term problems? Carry your wallet in a front pocket, and be sure to only carry what you need.