Wallets & Sciatica

by Justin Phillips

For most men, the back pocket has always been a go-to spot for stowing your cards, cash, change or receipts. It is very easy to get in the habit of cramming “one more thing” into your wallet and sitting on it all day. When handling patients’ concerns, I am frequently asked, “How did this happen?” For men, with a history of sciatic pain or rotation of the hips, the most common answer is, “You’ve been sitting on that wallet for 15+ years.”

Think of it this way……a study performed by Ergotron, a global manufacturer of furniture and mobility products, showed that Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day. When you are seated, your hips and spine rotate forward and most of the pressure in on the bottom of the hip. Hopefully, during this time, everything is level. Placing a thick wallet in your back pocket causes your hips to immediately tilt, forcing your spine, ligaments, and muscles to compensate for the imbalance. This tilting & compensation creates unleveled hips, a crooked spine, and tight muscles. Now, repeat that position for 13 hrs/day……….for 15 years!


Not only does your wallet force your hips to tilt, but it puts direct pressure on the piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome, which is a common problem seen by chiropractors, is defined as compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve directly from the piriformis muscle. Other names for this condition is “wallet sciatica” and “fat wallet syndrome”.

Here are some tips on changing the way you carry your wallet:

  • Use a “front pocket” wallet or money clips. This might also save you money in the long run since you can’t carry as much.
  • Take it out of your pocket while sitting. If you can’t get rid of it, at least take it out of your pocket while driving or sitting at home/work. Stow it in your desk or console.
  • Rotate sides. This is the worst “solution” to the problem because you are still putting a stress on your back. At least, it will alternate stress to different sides.

front wallet

Carrying a thick wallet in your back pocket is a primary example of how little habits can create big problems down the road. This is one of many topics that I cover daily with numerous patients in order to maintain a healthy spine and a healthy life.