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Is Your Wallet Causing Your Sciatica?

Published September 7, 2017
| Written By BackerNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Jonathan Buncke, DC

What’s in your wallet may be more than just a catchphrase from a series of commercials by a popular credit card company.

“[Your wallet] the go-to spot for stowing your stuff, but sitting on a pile of cards, bills, and coins could put stress on your hip joint and lower back,” says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. With men, carrying a wallet in your back pocket not only twists the spine while sitting, but it also compresses the large nerve that extends through each buttock and down each leg. When your sciatic nerve, which is right behind your hip joint, gets pinched between the wallet and your hip, you can find yourself with an unwanted case of sciatica. Sciatica is an inflammation of those nerves, and it can feel like anything from a mild tingling to debilitating pain in the lower back and through the body.

 “The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest  nerve in the human body. It starts in the lower back and pelvis and is made up of five spinal nerves. When the sciatic nerve becomes irritated most people experience symptoms from tingling or numbness to severe sharp and shooting pain into the leg, ankle or foot," says Dr. Jonathan Buncke of Moon Chiropractic in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. "Common causes of sciatic nerve pain can be herniated or bulging spinal discs, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis or trauma."

If you sit at a desk for work, or drive for a living — or simply drive over short distances to run errands, attend meetings, or visit family and friends — don’t sit on your wallet. Compounded with poor posture that happens with driving, it could spell more pain. Even driving for 30 minutes while sitting on your wallet can cause you back pain or sciatic pain, said chiropractor Dr. Mathew Ullom in a blog post.

“Instead of sitting on your wallet how about moving it to your front pocket or consider purchasing a front pocket wallet or using a sleeve that sticks to the back of your cell phone to hold important cards. Another option could be a sling pack that can hold your wallet, keys, charging cables for your phone and a small tablet computer. If those do not help then consider an evaluation by a medical professional," says Buncke.

The simple thing to do: avoid this and just keep your wallet in your jacket or front pocket. Buy a billfold instead or a mobile phone case that serves as a “wallet” for credit cards and other assorted items. You’ll save your back unnecessary, self-inflicted pain.

Updated: April 11, 2019

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Contributors and Experts

Dr. Jonathan Buncke owns and operates Moon Chiropractic with Dr. Jim Spiropoulos in Moon Township, PA.