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Friday, June 1, 2012

a pain in the a**

As some of you all may know from previous internet whining (the best kind, because no one can reach through their screen and slap you and tell you to man the fuck up), I'm in pain. 

It started out innocently enough. Last Saturday afternoon I was walking from my office to the gym when, for no clear reason, my hip flexors locked up.  They loosened a bit by the time I got there and I was able to lift just fine (and even PR'd on my rack pulls...210...because bragging is just as attractive as whining, y'all). I didn't however squat, because I felt like my hips were just not flexible enough for that at the moment.

Sunday a friend and I took a day trip to Portland (east coast one, in case you forgot where I live), a little endeavor that required about 4 1/2 hours total in the car. Sitting in a car is not kind to one's hip flexors, as we're probably all aware. On the way home, I ended up sitting crosslegged in the passenger seat, as that was the only way I could get my hips comfortable.

Monday a.m., I foam rolled every part of my body that could be foam rolled.  Tuesday I lifted again and Zercher squatted, then went to the Sox game.  The seats in Fenway are also not kind to one's hip flexors and it was a long game with a rain delay. By the time I got home, I was really stiff. Went to bed and had a hard time getting comfortable.  Woke up feeling stiff and uncomfortable all over, but took some ibuprophen and didn't think much of it.

Then Wednesday afternoon I had an appointment at the gynecologist, which is a whole nother boring medical story and right now we're sticking to this one. You're welcome.  I decided I would walk there. About half a mile from my house, my left lower back, hip, and upper leg started to really hurt. This was not the "hip flexors stiffening up" that I'd had walking on Saturday. This was pain, and I wondered if I would even be able to make it all the way there. I did, and actually started feeling better while I was there. So much so that I stuck to my original plan and went to the gym after for some cardio on the elliptical, some farmers walks, chinups, and stretching. I spent most of Wednesday evening sitting on my sofa doing some stuff online while watching the game. When I got up to go upstairs, ow.  Hip and low back were screaming again. Hard time getting comfortable in bed again and only able to lie on one side.

Thursday I woke up a mess.  I desperately tried everything I could to get my left sided hip and low back pain to lessen so that I could, y'know, walk and stand and go to work. I foam rolled and found a really, really tender spot right below my rear pelvis. (Piriformis? I thought. But since it's hard to palpate oneself, especially when you can't see what you're doing and you're in pain, I wasn't completely sold on what muscle I was in.) I put an ice pack on my back/hip while I was blowdrying my hair. I took a handful of ibuprophen. (We'll worry about my liver at a later date. It's not like I don't also love beer.) And I made it to work. Where it soon became apparent that neither sitting, standing, or walking was comfortable. I made an emergency massage appointment after work.

Where, yes, it was determined that my piriformis and piriformis tendon are inflamed. Massage, ice, rest, and, yup, ibuprophen were the recommendations.

Do y'all know why a tight or inflamed piriformis hurts so much? Here are some helpful diagrams.  Google image search is back to being my biatch.

Yes, that's correct. When your piriformis is acting up, it presses on your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve doesn't like that shit and it tells you all about it with PAIN. In the ass, literally. And the leg, the hips, the low back.

I knew all that from massage school. As a matter of fact, I once upon a time did a group project on piriformis syndrome. It was supposed to be multimedia. My friend Sandy who was in another group (and whose type A tendencies once earned her 200 points on a paper where the theoretical max was 100) did a powerpoint presentation. My group had an abstract model of the pelvis, femur, piriformis, and sciatic nerve made out of coat hangers and string by the former art school grad in our group. We also demonstarted stretches. We got a better grade than you might think.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah. So even though I knew about piriformis syndrome, I was hazy on the details of what causes it and what you're supposed to do about it. Last night while I sat with an ice pack down my pants (as a friend said, just another typical Thursday night at Andrea's house!), I did some research. Turns out a lot of things can cause a tight and/or inflamed piriformis. I narrowed down a few that I thought were applicable to me. Tight hip flexors!  Tight medial hamstrings!  Leg length discrepancy!  Actually, I'm not completely sure my legs are different lengths, though many many many years ago, a friend's sister who was studying PT and using me for homework said they were. What I do know is that my pelvis is higher and twisted forward on the left and that contributes to my hip flexors tightening up.

What kind of things aggravate piriformis syndrome? Oh, walking, sitting a lot, running, biking.  Well, I'd done a lot of the first two in the past week.

And what do you do to relieve it?  Massage, ice, stretching, REST. I may have mildly freaked out when I read the recommendation to rest for 2-3 weeks.  How am I supposed to go 2-3 weeks without squatting and deadlifting, not to mention cardio?

Also, I refreshed my memory on the various piriformis stretches, some of which, I will admit, I kinda forgot about and have not been doing.  But then I came across this video.

That's an advanced piriformis stretch? I DO do that one.  Like every single time I stretch. I never ever leave it out. I have to admit, it kinda pissed me off.  Like, why is my piriformis misbehaving when I do the "advanced" stretch regularly?  But I might just have been cranky. An ice pack down your pants tends to promote that.

Here's hoping all your pains in the ass are metaphorical, kids, as well as few and far between! 



  1. Hope you feel better soon. Just an FYI, as you get older this kinda stuff happens with more frequency - consider yourself warned!

  2. Andrea, that was SO helpful, thank you! I grew up finding my mother crawling on the floor with sciatic pain, several times a year. She was incapacitated for days on end!
    I am a walker and my left hip has been hurting terribly for years. I've been told that I had slight scoliosis when I was a child but it was not treated. I've always suspected that my sciatic nerve was not a happy camper but I keep taking meds for my walk and deal. At least now I understand a bit more about the anatomy of ... hip pain. I also sit a lot so I am certainly not helping the situation.