My giant wallet could be giving me sciatica!

2016-04-15 11.52.57Not long after I started this blog I pinched my sciatic nerve and then wrote Fighting sciatica and fascial adhesion with a massage stick. A couple months later, it happened again and I wrote Oy! My lumbago! So, tonight I have the third race in my 5-race 5k series, Crystal City 5k Fridays and am nursing a pinched nerve that I’ll call sciatica again. 

I ran off to grab lunch with Bob Fine in DC on my motorcycle and realized that I sit on a giant natural leather Tanner Goods Utility Bifold wallet that sits in the right pocket of my jeans all the time — pressing right on my sciatic nerve. 

Piriformis muscleI was asking around and Tara Penelope Calishain told me on Facebook that the pressure of carrying a big fat leather wallet in your back pocket,  and the resulting pressure on the sciatic nerve when compressed or otherwise irritated by the piriformis muscle, causes the sort of pain, tingling and numbness in the buttocks and descending into the leg. It’s is called piriformis syndrome.

I know that my weight is a major part of this and that I sometimes wear jeans that are too tight around the waist when my weight fluctuates that there’s a lot of pressure and stress on that region. And when I am working out a lot, the muscles swell, further exacerbating the syndrome and thus the pain.

ds00516_im02917_mcdc_sciaticathu_jpgSo, now I am wondering if I should still run the 5k tonight — just 3-hours away.  I have felt a lot better today so I might chance it. But if I do, I will surely need to make sure that I do a lot of rolling and massage sticking in order to fight the pesky sciatica and fascial adhesion.

Not everyone thinks I should go for it.  

Here’s the advice I have received from my lovely friends on Facebook:

On the Sciatic Pain and Running the 5K:

  • sciatic-nerve-and-nerve-painSusan Decoteau-Ferrier: My husband had sciatic pain. He stopped carrying his wallet in his back pocket all the time and the sciatic pain disappeared. Also, get Turmeric capsules. They are a natural anti-inflammatory.
  • Paul Monaco: I made the switch to a money clip, what a difference. Would never go back for both comfort and simplicity.
  • Linda Ferger Pekunka: suggested I stand with your back to the walk, feet about a foot apart. Bending your knees slowly slide your back down the wall till the small of your back is flush with the wall hold for 15 seconds and slowly stand back up. Do about 3 times and repeat a few times a day. Also sleep in a fetal position with a flat pillow between your knees. Both these tips relieves pressure from your spine. Good luck!
  • chiropractor-orange-sciaticaStevie Wilson: Chris Abraham in the short term, get a lumbar support cushion for car and chair. Also watch how you ride your bike. and slow down (and maybe stop) the rowing. That could be the culprit. Not saying (forever) .. just for short term. (worse outcomes possible if you don’t. )
  • Stephen Dee: You’re not going to find an overnight cure. You may find something topical to help ease the pain. Some athletes will not like the following advice: Take a couple of ibuprophen a couple of hours before the race. They’ll help with inflammation and pain. Line up to run the race; it’s short. If you find yourself a bit uncomfortable, carry on. If it’s killing you stop. Anywhere in between is a judgement call. Beyond this, hie thee to a PT specialist.
  • 2016 Crystal City 5K Fridays, race #1 produced by Pacers Running. Friday, 1 April, 2016. Photo by Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photo.Sidney Billingsley: Fill a camelback with Gatorade and vodka. You will finish the race, you might puke but your back won’t hurt .
  • Jerome Cole: Don’t do the run. Not worth the risk. Wait until this problem resolves. And I am speaking from experience here. I had a pinched nerve, exerted myself against the advice of doctors, and suffered grievously for about a month. Don’t do it.
  • Stevie Wilson: You should do alternating ice and heat (Ice first to reduce inflammation, then heat) every 30 mins. You need to watch Sitting posture too. Do you have lumbar support? Take care tonight. Epsom salt bath, ibuprofen , ice & heat .see how you feel tomorrow . If you want definitive answer tonight, then take a pass and see a doc to get a referral to PT. You know the answer already … right now
  • 2016 Crystal City 5K Fridays, race #1 produced by Pacers Running. Friday, 1 April, 2016. Photo by Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photo.Stephen Dee: Stevie Wilson called it. If you’re in agony, do NOT run. If you’re a bit achy, line up for the start (having taken ibuprofen) and see how you feel. Sometimes aches will abate with movement and exercise and sometimes they’ll get worse. If you find you can walk fine but can’t run without serious pain, just walk the 5k. It’s a judgement call that only you can make. 
  • Minna Aslama Horowitz: Been there. Don’t stretch — often that intensifies the pain and pinches the nerve further. 

On the Big Fat Wallet:

  • Tara Penelope Calishain: This is apparently a thing: Piriformis syndrome
  • Sidney Billingsley: I carry my wallet in my front pocket for this very reason. 
  • Jeff Lang: Stop doing that. Seriously, don’t do that. 
  • Paul Monaco: I made the switch to a money clip, what a difference. Would never go back for both comfort and simplicity. 
  • Susan Decoteau-Ferrier: My husband had sciatic pain. He stopped carrying his wallet in his back pocket all the time and the sciatic pain disappeared. Also, get Turmeric capsules. They are a natural anti-inflammatory.

And here’s some advice from Reddit:

  • 2016 Crystal City 5K Fridays, race #1 produced by Pacers Running. Friday, 1 April, 2016. Photo by Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photo.Astronomicca via /r/running:  It’s called the “iskias nerve” and that nerve goes between the muscles in the lower back and down through the back of the legs. When you work out, e.g. run, the muscles swell and are squeezing the nerve. This causes pain in the lower back and even down through the back of the legs. The pain will go away when the muscle is done being swelled. My doctor said that the construction of the iskias nerve going through those muscles is the only thing on the human body that is stupidly designed 🙂 Reason is obviously that using you lower back muscles can squeeze the nerve. I’ve tried it and it’s painful but it goes away. I don’t believe it’s more dangerous than many other things runners put themselves through 🙂
  • Manytoedsloth via /r/C25KIt’s not our advice to give. No one here can tell you for sure, let alone should you trust anyone to comment on something so important. If you can’t contact a professional to ask, I’d advise to sit this one out. If you’re determined to race, I have no idea at all about exercises but rest is better than doing an exercise wrong. Lastly, if the pain becomes worse during the 5k, don’t be stubborn – you risk making a minor injury worse and it could even become something that plagues you for months or years. Why push? There will be more races in the future – be safe with this one and you’ll be fit for the later ones!

  • Sdr4wkcab via /r/runningI have sciatica and I have found a few stretches that help relieve my pain. I do them every morning and at night. I also try to do planks and lunges (this helps strengthen my core and my glutes) which I find helps with my lower back pain. This video was very informative. This one has a stretch that I feel helps a lot. I also do the cat/cow stretch. And the top 2 stretches here, I haven’t tried the bottom 2 but they look interesting. As with everything like this stop if anything starts to hurt more or feels bad. And if it continues see your doctor or a chiropractor. Good Luck!

  • Mauser98 via /r/runningI have been having this problem also for a few months now, im 5’5 140 pounds and when I get about a mile into my run I get the same lower back pinch. Its so frustrating because I love running but its become difficult lately. I don’t know what to do, I hope its nothing serious.

  • TesticlesMcTitties via /r/runningIf I were you I’d do a lot of foam rolling and that’s it. During your run, concentrate on keeping your hips flat (vertical) and your core tight to mitigate the pain.

From Instagram:

  • Danieljohnsonjr: I’ve been keeping mine in a front pocket ever since I began to get sciata. Hasn’t been a problem since.
  • Chris_december: I keep my wallet either in my messenger bag, cargo side pockets or in the front. Never been comfortable sitting on them. Later on, I read that wallets affect the spine if kept in the back pocket. Saved without realizing the medical reason 😛
  • Noguiltfitness: Unfortunately – not coincidence at all. My chiro had me move mine over a decade ago. I’ll recommend a couple of good ones to you On FB – along with the link to a great hip mobility program. I can honestly say – best program ever – keeps me out of a lot of pain.

Here’s the original post I made on /r/Running, /r/C25K, and Facebook:

I have a 5k tomorrow but I have a pinch in my lower back that goes away when I walk but come back when I sit — do I rest it, stretch it, work it, ignore it? You advice needed.

What my massage therapist said is true: once you get a lower back nerve pinch it might become chronic.

Right now, I am looking for stretches or exercises that can help me work this out. Should I really just be relaxing it, let it relax, heal, and maybe the “swelling” or whatever is happening will go away.

I have my 3rd 5k run tomorrow at 6:30 and I intend to run it. I run slow, that’s for sure. And I assume I won’t be making it work. Right now, I feel good when I am either on my back or side or standing up at my standing treadmill desk, whether I am just standing or just walking along at 2mph.

I am not asking for medical help, I am just asking for your advice.

Thanks in advance.

PS: I do have both a long roller stick and also a black foam roller, if there are any stretches, yoga moves, or roller moves that have worked for you in the past.

PPS: Yes, losing 80-100 pounds is probably the #1 best thing for me to do, but until then

 Upon more research, it looks like there’s something called Walletitis:

walletitisThe Claim: Keeping a Wallet in Your Back Pocket Can Cause Sciatica

THE FACTS 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.

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, New York Times

And here’s the original New York Times articleThe Claim: Keeping a Wallet in Your Back Pocket Can Cause Sciatica by ANAHAD O’CONNOR

THE FACTS 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.

[email protected]

 Well, it looks to me like I really need to stop wearing this amazing and gorgeous Tanner Goods Utility Bifold in natural — so very sad.

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3 thoughts on “My giant wallet could be giving me sciatica!

  1. Pingback: I think my sciatica is actually walletitis from the fat leather bifold I wear in my right rear pocket — the same side as my sciatica! Thanks to all the redditors who have helped me sort this all out. I am much obliged! | Brain Food @ Get Fitter

  2. Pingback: Quickening my 5k time week after week at the #cc5kFridays - RNNR

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