Picture this, you’ve just picked up your favorite Starbucks coffee and reach for your wallet in your back pocket or you’ve just filled your car with gas and yes you guessed it, you reach for your wallet, in your back pocket.
You see, it’s pretty common for people to keep their wallet in their back pocket and if your wallet is bulky, what people don’t realize is that this can be the cause of many back related problems, more commonly known as Sciatica.
1. Why your wallet might hurt you?
Seriously, a bulky wallet, kept in your back pocket every day can lead to real problems with sciatica, which is when you experience pain in your back or lower body caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest single nerve in your entire body and starts at the lower part of your back and runs all the way down your leg to your foot. It provides the connection to the nervous system for nearly the whole of the skin of the leg and the muscles on the back of the thigh.
There is quite a significant difference in the pressure experienced on your spine when you sit or stand. If you were to stand up, the pressure on the spine is said to be 100%, but if you were to sit, this increases to between 140% and 160% and this can be further increased by what you have in your back pocket as I will explain shortly.
It’s a very common sight in GP clinics all over the world, men complaining about inexplicable back pain and how to stop it. The GP will run through a series of questions about lifestyle trying to find out where the pain is and try to understand how it is being caused.
Quite often, the GP may establish that they have a desk job where they sit for long periods of time and this is a very typical cause of lower back pain, but what they might not pick up on so swiftly is the pain caused from sitting on a bulky, oversized wallet.
There is in fact a medical term for the pain caused by keeping a bulky, oversized wallet in your back pocket, “wallet neuropathy”. I kid you not, type this into Google and the number of hits will amaze you.
According to Wordspy (the word lover’s guide to new words), “wallet neuropathy” refers to lower back pain caused by sitting on an overstuffed wallet kept in the back pocket but it also has many other names including ‘hip-pocket syndrome’, ‘wallet neuritis’, ‘wallet sciatica’, ‘fat wallet syndrome’, ‘credit carditis’ etc etc.
In the medical field, the official term is “piriformis syndrome”, which is where the sciatic nerve is compressed by the piriformis muscles in your buttocks. Sitting all day does not help this and as you can now start to imagine, a bulky wallet in your back pocket when you are sitting down can be a large part of the problem.
If you are suffering from lower back or leg pain, perhaps pins and needles etc, and if you find that the pain is relieved by walking around then you might be experiencing this very problem. It is even more likely to be this type of problem if you find that when walking around you point the painful foot outwards as this further reduces the pressure on your sciatic nerve and piriformis muscle.
2. Wallet neuropathy is not a new word
You may think that “wallet neuropathy” is a new word but no, in truth it dates back to 1965.
The phenomenon was first described in a brief article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1966, when credit cards were beginning to proliferate. It was then mentioned in the American Library Association Adult Service as “Back-pocket sciatica” which was caused by carrying thick wallets or golf balls in the hip pocket (with a variation called “credit carditis” caused by carrying a wallet stuffed with credit cards). It was further popularized on TV in an episode of the “Seinfeld” series in the 1990s,
According to “Barometer” by the Daily Mail – “experts expressed that, there’s an explosion of ‘wallet neuropathy’ as men damage key nerves by sitting down with their wallets in their back pocket. Take heart, chaps, there’s a simple cure – get your wallet out more often.”
“Physiotherapists have coined the term ‘wallet-neuropathy’ for the lower back pain caused by men sitting down (such as when driving or in the office) on wallets which they always carry in their back trouser pocket. The condition is triggered by the wallet pressing on sciatic nerves in the back and can lead to pain or numbness in the lower leg, ankle or foot.”, as reported by Daily Mail in 2009.
“Just the other day, I had to tell one patient with back pain to remove at least 20 years of stored data from his wallet,” siad Dr. Gerard P. Varlotta of the New York University School of Medicine.
Eureka, proof indeed!
A bulky, oversized wallet can indeed be the cause of your back pain and something needs to be done about it. Not to mention things like bulky phone cases, golf balls etc.
3. So, what can you do to help yourself?
The simplest thing you can do if you realize that you are suffering from wallet neuropathy (or might be) is to replace that bulky, oversized back pocket wallet with a slim, front pocket wallet and I myself would highly recommend doing this.
Allow me to explain.
A minimalist wallet will be more comfortable to carry due to its smaller size and will not become overstuffed by useless junk. It’s slim in design and made to fit into your front pocket perfectly.
Also, very importantly, a minimalist wallet looks a lot more elegant. You have to admit that a bulky wallet sticking out of your back pocket looks terrible and very odd looking, even worse if you wear skinny jeans. Think about it, a front pocket wallet won’t wear out your jeans or trousers but a bulky wallet in your back pocket will.
And perhaps most importantly, another reason for switching to a front pocket is that it’s much harder for pickpockets to steal a wallet from the front than it is from the back pocket, so you can be more secure as well as pain free.
Well, perhaps that last bit was a little dramatic; of course the perfect wallet is not enough to protect you from back pain, but it’s a step in the right direction.
So, don’t forget, standing is a lot less stressful on your back.
If you do have to sit for long periods, take time to stand, get exercise, perhaps walking around