Back pain can seem like one of life's unsolvable mysteries. One day, the back pain wasn't there. The next day, voila! You can't straighten up. Where did the pain come from? Why did it suddenly appear? "All I did," explains a sufferer, "was turn over in bed, and now I can't stand up."
Chiropractors have been helping patients with back pain for 116 years, and during that time, we've noticed certain trends and patterns. One trend is that young men who play high school football tend to have an increased amount of spinal degeneration in later life. Another trend is that women who wear high heels as their regular footwear tend to have more foot, knee, and hip issues than women who wear sneakers. Another is that people who regularly cross their legs when sitting tend to have more sacroiliac problems.
In other words, chiropractors have long noted that your daily habits have a direct and long-lasting impact on your health. How you stand, how you sit, how you walk, how you carry your purse, how you use a computer, how often you text, how often you drive: all of these activities have a direct impact on your spinal joint motion.
And since your spinal joints protect your nervous system, any lack of proper joint motion will result in a diminished nervous system. Since the nervous system controls and regulates all other systems in the body, a diminished nervous system usually means that you will suffer from extra pain and other symptoms.
There are many other daily activities that can result in long-term problems. We'll focus on one such activity today.
Carrying Your Wallet In Your Back Pocket
If you carry a wallet instead of a purse, there are three excellent reasons why you should consider carrying the wallet in your front pants pocket rather than your back pocket or hip pocket.
First, it is commonly accepted that pickpockets have a more difficult time stealing your wallet if it is your front pocket. The front pocket is more likely to be in your peripheral vision, whereas the back pocket is completely out of sight and unguarded. The front pockets are also generally deeper than the back pockets, meaning that the thief would have to reach deeper, making it more likely for you to notice the intrusion. Also, the skin of the front of the thigh is much more sensitive than the skin over your buttocks, making the slightest touch more noticable in the front pockets.
Second, the wallet presses deeply into the soft tissues on your right 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 wallet-carrying is so common that it is often referred to as "wallet sciatica" or "hip pocket syndrome."
Third, the bulk of the wallet makes a significant impact on your posture.
Your body is a wonderful example of symmetry. 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.
However, 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 foundation is unlevel. Imagine the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The pelvis is now shifted from a level surface to an unlevel 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 on the right side of your low back to pull the lumbar vertebrae back into an upright position. At the same time, muscles on the right side of your neck will pull down on the right 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 (though likely not as large as a scoliosis) and the body will accept these curvatures as its new "normal" posture. This is not a healthy situation, however. The curvatures are maintained by asymmetrical muscles, which are now controlled by dysfunctional nerves. Discs may be more easily displaced from abnormal curvatures. Severe 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 ever more unstable, ever 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.
Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
All images used are under Creative Commons license.
Although every effort has been made to provide an accurate description of our chiropractic care and its benefits, the information given on this website and blog is not intended to be, nor should it be interpreted as, medical advice for any condition.
If you have any questions regarding your condition, you should seek the help of Dr. Johnson in person, so that he may properly assess your condition.
This blog is provided by Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria, S.C., proudly located in Peoria, IL.