There’s a famous running joke on one Seinfeld episode about the thickness of George Costanza’s wallet. Overflowing with receipts, business cards and gas station coupons, his wallet is more akin to an accountant’s filing cabinet than a place to store a few credit cards and some cash. But he loves it — when he begins to experience back problems as a consequence of having a wallet so thick that it throws off his posture, he refuses to slim it down, even going so far as to refer to his leather binder as “his friend.”
The recurring bit, like all Seinfeld bits, is absurd. No one carries a wallet quite as thick as the one George has. But lots of dudes carry around wallets that start to approach this level of madness, filled with pieces of paper and credit cards they haven’t used in years, creating a stack of unusable clutter. It’s pathological — you get a receipt or a coupon and you stuff that bad boy in your wallet and move about your day. That is, until you realize (hopefully) that like George, your back pocket bulge is beginning to fuck up your back.
So then, how thick should your wallet be? And what should you be carrying around in it?
First off, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but putting a wallet of any size in your back pocket isn’t good for your spine. “The problem is twofold: Not only does sitting with a wallet in your pocket pinch your sciatic nerve, but it also causes your pelvis and spine to position in a way that isn’t straight or natural,” states AdvantageChiropracticClinic.com. In fact, chiropractor Austin Davis previously told us that one of the most frequent problems he sees in his office is “spinal misalignments due to a patient sitting on a wallet for hours on end.”
As such, the bigger and more stuffed your wallet is, the worse your back problems are likely to be. There’s even a scientific name for wallet-induced back pain: Wallet neuritis.
Unfortunately, again per AdvantageChiropracticClinic.com, putting your wallet in your front pocket isn’t exactly a fix either: “A front pocket placement could cause a pinch between your thigh and torso, resulting in different aches and pains.”
That means the best advice is to live by what’s referred to as the “15-minute rule” — basically, if you’re going to be sitting for 15 minutes or longer, you should consider taking your wallet out of your pant pocket and putting it into a jacket pocket, or placing it somewhere nearby.
Still, if you’re like me — a back pocket wallet wearer who doesn’t like to remove their wallet when they sit — you’re at least better off sitting at a slight slant than a steep slope like George. And if you’re currently sporting a bulging, Costanza-like wallet, there are things you can do to slim it down. According to Lifehacker, wallet cleaning begins with a reconsideration of the contents of your wallet. Do you really need all those receipts? Or that free ice cream card you received from a shop while you were on vacation in a different city? How about that gift card with 78 cents on it?
I’m not suggesting you throw these things away — God forbid!!! — but it’s better for your back if you put them in a backup wallet that you don’t carry around every single day. Per Lifehacker, you may want to also consider going digital. “For pretty much everything else, we like Lemon (Android/iOS/Windows Phone) because it can handle tons of the stuff you’d store in your wallet,” they report. “You can take a picture of club cards, credit cards, rewards cards and even your receipts.” After all, these days, the only thing you really need to carry around other than a few bucks of cash for emergencies is your I.D. and health insurance card if you have one.
And if you absolutely can’t part ways with the contents of your wallet, don’t be stubborn like George. Just carry a fanny pack — or, like Jerry, try a men’s carryall. It’s European!