The more technologically advanced we get, the more “stuff” we think we need to lug around. From cell phones, beepers, electronic Palm Pilots and wallets filled with grocery store cards and credit and debit cards, our billfolds and pocketbooks bulge and our bodies strain under the load.
While most women carry pocketbooks that weigh them down at the shoulders, many men have the habit of jamming a large wallet in a trouser back pocket. Each of these practices, which keep the latest wizardry close at hand, has interesting physical consequences!
First, let’s look at women’s pocketbooks.
Well, it appears to be a law of nature: If there is space for something, it will get filled up. Full pocketbooks and purses can range in weight from less than 1 pound to as much as 10. The person carrying the pocketbook usually adopts a posture reflecting the side it is carried on and the burden’s average weight.
For example, a right-handed woman usually carries a pocketbook on her right side, and tends to slightly raise her right shoulder to keep the strap of the bag from slipping. Usually, this creates slightly more tension in the neck and shoulder muscles on the right side, and correspondingly creates slightly more tension in the lower left back muscles. Although this muscle imbalance usually corrects itself, prolonged shopping can prove tough on the budget as well as the body!
Whenever possible, limit the weight of your pocketbook or purse and take the bare minimum with you, especially during the approaching holiday season. Switch sides often and place your bag in a shopping cart when possible.
Although men usually travel lighter than women do, their choice of placement for their wallet can sometimes pose problems. A wallet habitually placed in the back pocket of pants can eventually cause an imbalance in the pelvic girdle and put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can lead to sciatica.
The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves, measuring the width of your little finger. The nerve exits from the spine and pelvis deep between the gluteal and piriformis muscles of each buttock and travels down the back part of the leg. Sciatic pain is often described as a dull toothache in the buttock muscle on one side, usually felt while sitting. It can also show itself as buttock pain when you walk or change position from sitting to standing. Occasionally, it can become sharp and shoot down the back of the leg.
Carrying a bulky wallet in the back pocket of pants becomes most problematic when you are seated. If you tend to slouch, you actually sit right on the wallet, which raises you up on that side only and causes a twist in your pelvis and spine. Compounded by the pressure on the sciatic nerve, this lopsidedness can, over time, create discomfort and imbalance.
We highly recommend wallets be kept in front pockets or in fanny packs. Remove your wallet from your pocket when you drive, when possible. This simple practice may make you less stiff when you get out of your car.
Be selective in what you tote in your pocketbook or wallet. Limit the number of coins in your wallet because you can quickly accumulate a pound’s worth.
If you develop any of the imbalances mentioned in this article, you can usually correct the cause of the problem in a week or two when you follow the suggestions mentioned here. But if the problem persists, check with your doctor or physical therapist. Remember that you can avoid the simple things that cause many aches and pains.
Lighten up and shop smart!