Today I was providing care for a chiropracter. I turned my back on him and he asked me if I had a wallet in my back pocket of my scrub suit? When I told him it was he said, “That keeps me in business!” I asked him to explain and he said that the thick wallets in men who sit most of the day on their buttocks and on their wallets causes a discrepancy that can contribute to back pain. I thought that was absurd and then I Googled the topic on the Internet and found this article from the New York Times in 2006 by Anahad O’Conner which confirmed his comment.
THE CLAIM Keeping a wallet in your back pocket can cause sciatica. Ms. O’Conner said that a wallet stuffed with business cards or scraps of paper might seem like more of an eyesore than a health hazard.
But one old bromide holds that a thick wallet — or even one that’s not so thick — can harm the lower back for those sit on it for too long. And while experts says the fears are probably exaggerated, the wallet can definitely carry some hazards.
Although it was popularized by an episode of the ”Seinfeld” series in the 1990’s, 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.
The report, about a lawyer who suffered aches and pains in the left leg, not far from a wallet growing thick with charge cards, referred to the condition as ”credit-carditis.”
Although that term never quite caught on, doctors say the condition has become increasingly common. Its onset is gradual, caused by an object that presses on the piriformis muscle in the buttocks, which is connected to the sciatic nerve, which runs down the leg.
Over time, a person can develop radiating pain in the back and hip area.
”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,” said Dr. Gerard P. Varlotta of the New York University School of Medicine.
Wallets are not the only culprits. Numerous case reports have linked the condition to various back-pocket objects like large handkerchiefs and golf balls.
THE BOTTOM LINE — Keeping a thick wallet or object in the back pocket can gradually cause sciatica.