Dr Neil Gardner, Contributor
Most men carry so much stuff in their wallets, that it is almost impossible to stuff it into a front pocket. When considering the design of most trousers, the back pockets are shallower and are usually of a patch style, which makes it the most convenient place to stow and easily retrieve a wallet. The cultural practice of keeping wallets in back pockets is not so much the problem, as sitting with it there. Taking a seat with your wallet in your back pocket, may expose you to some serious health consequences.
What do you have in your wallet?
The thickness of many wallets is a feature that compounds the problem. I have, personally, seen some wallets as thick as two to three inches. When was the last time you cleaned out your wallet and got rid of the unnecessary cards, receipts or notes you don't really use?
Pinch Nerves/Nerve-Compression Injury
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues sometimes caused by external agents. In some cases, this tissue might be muscles under the influence of a poorly placed wallet. This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve's function. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there's typically no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.
The piriformis muscle is one of the muscles of the gluteal (buttock) region. In 15 per cent of the population, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle rather than beneath it. When the muscle shortens or spasms due to trauma or external pressure, it can compress or strangle the sciatic nerve beneath the muscle.
Sitting on a wallet for prolonged hours every day may cause self-inflicted sciatica. Symptoms of numbness and pain behind the thigh that may go all the way down to the sole of the foot are associated with this form of sciatica.
This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve's function. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there's typically no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.
Underlying or pre-existing conditions like diabetes may make nerves more susceptible to compression and other injury.
So, if you were looking for a good reason to take the wallet out of your back pocket, then you have found one. Save yourself the pain and invest in other modes of 'wallet transportation' - like a man bag.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB, Diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Chiropractic Neurologist, Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd.