One of the wonders of my day is observing how many things men can empty out of their pockets onto my desk before getting on the treatment couch. I have to say men because women don’t tend to do this, they seem to carry everything very sensibly in a bag. But this pocket filling can create back pain and let me explain why.
I completely get the ‘man pocket’ thing because I do it myself. Enough lose change to halve the national debt, more keys than I actually need at any given time, things belonging to our young son which I have no absolutely idea of how they came to be there, a small stone too! (don’t ask) and so on.
But today, something reminded me of a well known issue on our industry which I think its important for everybody to be aware of. It’s been long recognised that men tend to carry their wallet in a back pocket and that this leads to all sorts of musculoskeletal pain issues! Including Back Pain.
How does your wallet give you back pain?
When you sit with a wallet in your back pocket you end up sitting with one hip higher than the other due simply to the bulk of the wallet. This may not seem like an much of an issue, but sitting that way results in sitting with a lateral tilt of the pelvis. That means your hip, glute and lower back muscles now experience an uneven resting length and tone. We cover this in more detail in another blog. Changes in muscle resting tone and length begin to set in after just 20mins of adopting a posture and most of us sit much longer than that for a coffee and a chat.
What effect does a tilted pelvis have?
This tilt has a lot of other effects too, especially if repeated over time, here are some of the more common issues, this list is by no means exhaustive :
- Each side of the pelvis is now rotated in a different direction, so the sacroiliac joint can become dysfunctional, giving back pain, groin pain and often pain into the front of the hip too.
- A tilted pelvis causes compression of the facet joints in the spine on the same side as the wallet. Over time, this can lead to potential degeneration of the facet joints in the spine, as well as possible nerve root impingement. All common causes of back pain.
- On the opposite side to the wallet the pelvis tilting will create an increased pressure on the intervertebral discs, leading to a potential disc bulge or aggravation of existing disk issues.
- The wallet can compress the sciatic nerve between itself and the pelvis, leading to sciatic pain. This can give rise to pain in lower back or into almost any part of the leg all the way down to the foot and toes.
- Changes in muscle length eventually become ‘set’. At this point, even without the wallet, you will habitually sit with hip loaded more than the other. We see an awful lot of these incorrect, but unconscious postures here at The Reinge Clinic and for many reasons other than simply what’s in your pocket!
- Neck pain! As you compensate for the raised hip by tilting your head to the same side as the wallet. This tightens up the neck muscles and can create neck pain.
That’s a pretty big list and as we said far from exhaustive and, of course, the bigger the wallet the bigger the problem.
The keen readers will have noticed I commented earlier that something happened today that leads me to write this blog. That something was a client this week who pulled a wallet out of their pocket that literally defied the laws of physics. It really did. Somehow it was actually bigger than the pocket it came out of! It was absolutely bulging, but interestingly not with pound notes and it lead to a conversation that has become this blog.
Now of course in this day and age wallets are not the only culprit. How many phones do you see in back pockets? You are far more likely to remove a phone than a wallet and you are less likely to sit directly on it too, but I still see it done! The bank card however, is much more interesting. You will still tend to sit slightly less on the side that has your card in the pocket, because your peripheral nerves and brain tell you, more or less subconsciously, that there something is in your pocket that you might damage. So whilst it’s nowhere near as bad as a wallet, still be aware that this can create significant problems.
Of course here at The Reinge Clinic we can deal with all these back and hip issues however they have been created. We cant really fix the bank card you just bent in half though.
Find out more about how we fix back pain here.
For more information on back pain, take a look at this website.