Last Updated Jul 13, 2010 7:30 PM EDT
With the recession easing, perhaps you're carrying more cash in your wallet or purse. Or maybe you're still a little nervous and are continuing to stash business cards in there as job security. Either way, you could be unwittingly causing a different problem. A thick wallet carried in a back pocket, or a heavy purse slung over a shoulder, is a common cause of chronic back pain. (In fact, among men it actually has a clinical name: Wallet Neuropathy.) Before you drop lots of dough on kneady chiropractors, over-the-counter pain relievers, and costly medical exams, try a simpler solution: remove your wallet or cleaning out your handbag.
Here's what's happening: With men, a thick wallet not only twists the spine while sitting but it also compresses the large nerve that extends through each buttock and down each leg. Sciatica is the inflammation of these nerves, and it can result in anything from mild tingling to debilitating pain in the lower back and body. Meanwhile, it's not uncommon for women's purses to weigh 10 pounds or more. Having the equivalent of a bowling ball hanging off one side of the body (while walking in heels no less) twists and crunches the vertebrae in ways they were never designed for.
Fortunately, the solution to both situations is simple. For men, just move the wallet to a jacket pocket or, if you're a casual guy, buy one of these thinner, more ergonomic wallets. Women should throw their handbag on a bathroom scale. If it's approaching 10 percent of your body weight, then pare things down until it's a more ideal 2 or 3 pounds. (Or, what the hell, just head to the nearest Coach store and use it as an excuse to buy a new one.)
In the meantime, to make your back feel instantly better try these two gentle stretches:
Divine Spine: Lie on the floor with knees bent, soles on the ground and legs together. Slowly let your knees fall as far to the right as possible while keeping your shoulders and hips grounded and looking to the left. You should feel a wonderful twist in your lower back. Hold for as long as you'd like then repeat on the other side.
Happy Baby: Lie on the floor, bring both knees to your chest, and grab the outside of each foot. Roll onto your upper back like a baby in a crib, giggling with the newfound knowledge that your back pain is cured.