One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is the one with George Costanza and his humongous wallet. He and Jerry are sitting at the diner when he tells Jerry that “my back is killing me,” and then he pulls out a wallet that is as large as the hamburger they are eating. You should NEVER sit on a wallet! It is one of the easiest prevention strategies to prevent lower back pain, and one of the 1st things that we tell all of our patients.
Many of us have never heard this advice before. As kids/young adults we pick a side to put the wallet in, and the wallet stays in that pocket for the rest of our lives. Because we tend to use our wallets as our personal filing cabinets, they become larger and larger with each passing year.
When you sit on a wallet, you create a wedge under your pelvis that causes your lower back to tilt one way and your mid back to tilt the other way in compensation. This can cause muscular imbalance and strain leading to mid and lower back pain. Sitting on a wallet can also directly compress the sciatic nerve causing numbness, tingling, pain, or burning sensations to go into the hip or leg.
It is okay to carry a wallet in your back pocket. However, sitting on it should be avoided like the plague. Sitting on a wallet in one pocket your whole life is akin to walking around with a high heel shoe on one foot and a regular shoe on the other. It just does not make any sense.
For many years I would carry a wallet in my back pocket, and then move it before sitting down. In the wintertime, I could easily put it in my jacket pocket. In the summertime I could put it in my front pocket. However, putting a wallet designed for the back pocket into the front pocket was never very comfortable, especially if it was a tri-fold.
Now they make wallets that are designed to fit in our front pockets, and I have been using one of these happily for about 6 years now. It is bi-fold, and cut to the same shape as almost all of our front pockets, so it fits naturally and comfortably. Simply Google “front pocket wallet,” and there will be several options to choose from.
Even with a front pocket wallet, it is best to not let it grow to enormous sizes. You should only have what is necessary in your wallet to keep it as small as possible. Sitting with a wallet the size of a hamburger in the front pocket is not going to be helpful or comfortable either. A tip to keep your wallet as small as possible is to simply go through it every month and remove what has accumulated that you do not need on a daily basis.
Making the decision to NEVER sit on your wallet again is one of the most important prevention steps that you can take to to limit unnecessary strain on the muscles in your back. This advice is more necessary now than ever as we are sitting for more hours at work and at home than ever before. We hope that you find this information beneficial, and we look forward to bringing you our next article in two weeks.
Yours in Health
Crick and Crack
Dr. Thomas Turek grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University and New York Chiropractic College. He has practiced in St. Johnsbury for over 35 years, and lives in Waterford with his wife Dorothy. Dr. Travis Howard grew up in Rantoul, Ill. He was a medic in the Air Force for eight years. He attended University of Maryland European Division, Illinois State University, and Logan College of Chiropractic. He lives with his wife and three sons in Littleton, N.H. To submit a question for the column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.