When someone comes in with back pain, one of the things I look for is to see if they keep anything in their back pockets. Occasionally, I will see a thick billfold wallet or even a can of chewing tobacco (that’s another talk for another day!). If they do, I tell them to no longer sit on it. They can keep whatever is back their when standing and walking, but to remove it before sitting.
By keeping something thick in their back pocket, they are placing a wedge under one side which forces them to subtly tip to the opposite side. We as people do not like our body, along with our eyes and ears tilted so we bend our spines back closer to center to compensate. A simple experiment to better understand this concept is to stand in front of a mirror with one shoe on and one shoe off. Notice how you look and how you feel with more pressure on one side. Now, image being like this for a long car ride or a full day of sitting at home or work!
By doing this, we are putting more pressure on our intervertebral discs (the shock absorbers between our vertebrae) along with loading the facet joints (the joints in the back were the vertebrae stack on top of each other) on the same side as what’s in our pocket or the same side the shoe is on.
Over time, this pressure can lead to intervertebral disc damage such as disc bulge or herniation. It can then lead to arthritis, degeneration, and spinal nerve compression due to stenosis (a narrowing of the area where the nerves are). Due to the location of the large sciatic nerve, it may also compress it directly or by way of the nerve roots which form into the sciatic nerve from the spinal cord. This leads to numbness, tingling, and/or pain down the leg and usually into the feet. You only have one body, please take care of it!
- Dr. Brett Renze