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Sciatica? Check your rear pocket

Consumer Reports News: May 28, 2010 11:18 AM

John, a 44-year old court officer referred to my office for nerve testing, had suffered leg pain for about a year. It radiated from the left buttock down the back and side of his thigh to just above the knee, and flared up when he sat for long periods of time. Every time he wore his gun belt at work, it got worse. An MRI of the lumbar spine showed only some mild degenerative changes, so I suspected sciatica.

Often caused by a slipped disc in the spine, sciatica can have a number of origins. One of my friends got it by carrying a big wallet in his back pocket, a cause that’s relatively common. John’s cause was the gun belt, complete with a formidable night stick, he wears as a court officer. It wasn’t the first time that he had a pinched nerve, either. He had similar symptoms in the leg after doing some carpentry work several years ago. In both these cases, the pain isn’t only from the pressure of a heavy belt, but the unbalanced weight of a holster or belt can produce uneven posture and gait, resulting in strain on muscles, ligaments and nerves.

Sciatica2So what can John do given his line of work? He has tried to lessen the load and he’s shifted his duties for the past couple of months to avoid wearing it his gun belt, which has giving him some relief from the pressure on the nerve. And guys, if you keep your wallet in your back pocket, make sure to keep it light.

For more information on sciatica and its treatment, see our Treatment Ratings (subscribers only) for a comparison of 23 lower-back treatments, including spinal manipulation, massage, and drug therapies.

For more information on how garments can lead to pinched nerves:

Men feel the squeeze too

Squeezing into skinny jeans

Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports medical adviser

Photos courtesy of John Rhodes

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