This is a very long, detailed blog post on how to heal piriformis syndrome and lower back pain. So if you prefer to watch the video version of this post..scroll a little bit down 🙂
Before we start talking about healing, I want to share more about my experience with it, and I also want to give you some practical tips that you can apply everyday to help you heal from piriformis syndrome once and for all. And I’m also, of course, hoping that you guys will learn from my experience and from my mistakes so that you can so that you can heal quicker and not have to take as long as I did.
PS: I also have this great checklist you can download, where I summarized the exact things that have helped me heal. I haven’t had another piriformis syndrome flare-up in more than a year. So you should totally get it, and keep it handy.
How to heal from piriformis syndrome pain (Video version) – Post below the video!
How I got diagnosed with piriformis syndrome
So when I was first diagnosed with piriformis syndrome, I was having this glute pain on my right side, and I remember being referred to a physiotherapist and then an athletic therapies, and they both told me that I had one glutes weaker than the other and all I had to do was to strengthen the glutes. So I spent most of my time strengthening the right glutes, and going to my physiotherapy sessions and then after a few weeks I started feeling a lot better. After few more months, the piriformis pain came back, a lot worse, and on the same side. I was really getting frustrated because I was still doing exactly what they were telling me.
I started doing athletic therapy this time, and again it was the same old deep tissue massage the same strengthening exercises. It’s just frustrating to keeping hearing the same stuff.
Then, I started also experiencing some inflammation too and it was just a lot of weird stuff going on in my right hip. I was about 21 years old, and I knew that I wasn’t doing anything crazy at the gym. So I was really wondering what could have caused all this pain. And after those couple of years, things got really, really bad.
I remember having these really really bad spasms where I couldn’t even move. I couldn’t even do the basic things like sitting down, getting up, roll in bed. Everything was so painful. And I remember I would get a really bad sciatica pain too. And I was super scared of stretching on the floor because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back and that I was just going to stay stuck there.
And at one point even pain medication stopped working for me. I remember just swallowing a cocktail all these pills and nothing was working. I was barely getting any relief.
Starting to investigate the pain
So that’s when I got so FED UP and was really trying to figure things out. I got really mad at everything; the whole medical system, and how nobody was really trying to figure things out for me so I was doing my best to find out what was really going on in my body and why am I experienced and all this pain.
actually had to ask my doctor to get me to do an MRI or any scans that could show what was going on. You would be surprised to know how nobody has ever suggested for me to do those scans. I had to go and actually ask my doctor twice to send me get an MRI done.
And so the first MRI showed a herniated disc and then the second one showed an inflammation my pelvic. I don’t want to talk too much about the second one just because it shows something totally different, which you can read more about here. But the first one shows a very small herniated disc. So I didn’t get any surgery or anything from the herniated disc. I kinda didn’t take it too seriously considering that the majority of the population can have them and they don’t have pain..I consider it a normal abnormality. So I just wanted it to heal on its own. I did all I could to help the disks heal and regenerate with proper movement, and healthy nutrition. And it totally got better got better.
At that time I got into postural therapy. I knew my posture was not the best because at that time I started this office job and I was sitting for long hours. I remember since the very first day I started our job I felt a sharp pain on my back at the end of the day. I had a laptop, and higher chair so I was sitting hunched over 8 hours a day.
Things got really worse after my first day at the job, and you know I remember just trying everything under the sun in that little office space. I tried to make a stand-up desk with boxes, I bought a kneeling chair. I bought a different kind of ergonomic chair. I brought my stability ball, I was doing postural therapies during lunch when nobody was there. I was the “health freak” of the office and I was always just trying these weird things like wearing just socks while standing up, wearing different shoes, doing stretches in the washrooms every 10 minutes. My whole life was just all about the pain and how to get through the next day.
I’ve HAD it at that point. Especially when I started getting weird vibes from coworkers. You know, the “are you gonna get this back pain thing under control” vibe.
So things started to shift when I started putting my focus elsewhere, rather than the muscle itself and that’s the first thing that I want to suggest for you today.
1.There’s no such thing as a bad muscle.
When you start to experience piriformis syndrome pain, you may think there is something wrong with that muscle. All the muscles are there for a reason, and if they’re giving you pain, that just means that they’re trying to do their job in some way, including giving you signals. Let me give you an example: You know how many people complain about upper back muscle spasms especially when they spend most of their time typing on their laptops.
So what happens is that when your shoulders are rounded from all the typing and you sit in really bad posture with your neck moving forward, placing so much weight on your discs. Your chest is super tight. The muscles on the back are going to start trying to pull back the shoulders to realign everything back into place.
This translates into muscle spasms (over contraction) so they spasm in the back to pull everything together. What’s the first thing that you do when we get this pain in the upper back? We work on relaxing these muscles, to massage and release them, and take medication to help with the pain. But we never stop to question why the muscles are spasming in the first place.
When I would go to athletic therapy, I started asking questions instead of just lying there for another short-term relief until the next session. I will go there and start asking questions like why is the muscle spasm? what’s going on in there? Then the therapist will sometimes start guessing, and other times tell me that she noticed my pelvis is rotated.
So I go “and why is my pelvis rotated? what’s causing my pelvis to rotate?” I mean it makes more sense to me that if your pelvis is rotated, then the muscle is trying to pull it backward, and it’s spasming to pull everything back into place, and if I fix the rotation, the pain should go down to ultimately stop. So let’s do that. Let’s stop massaging the muscle everytime, and fix the rotation.
You really need to start investigating the pain.
It doesn’t make sense to just keep going to all of these therapies if they are only giving you short-term relief because the moment you stop those therapies the pain is going to get back again. Always ask questions while keeping in mind that there’s no such thing as a bad muscle.
Chronic pain is different than an acute injury (fracturing a bone, pulling a muscle). it comes from something that builds up through time, through years and years of bad posture, and most of the time, there’s an underlying issue that you have to investigate for yourself.
2. Posture determines how the muscles behave.
So when joints are misaligned, they will affect all the muscles around them. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re sitting frequently with your shoulder rounded, the muscles in the back are going to try to pull it back into place and that will result in pain and spasms. So it will be smarter to release the chest muscle and correct the posture. It makes sense for the pain to dramatically go down. The same applies tot he hips. When our core and glutes are so weak from the sitting in addition to not doing much to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Guess what. You know a lot of those muscles are going to be overworking, overcompensating, and spasming.
3. Acknowledge the power of your mind to help you heal faster.
There is a huge field in neuroscience, called neuroplasticity. There are so many studies that show that the part of the brain connected to that part of the body that is experiencing pain will get activated more often. In other words, it’d be all you are thinking of. And the feeling of the pain gets reinforced. Ain’t nobody got time for that oO
Once those neuropathways are built and reinforced. You will still feel the pain even though there is nothing wrong, or injured in that area and there’s so much science behind this. Seriously, check it out.
So as you heal, and as you’re doing all of your therapies, you have to spend some time rewiring your mind to focus more on healing and stop being stuck in “pain mode”. So there are many ways you can do that. I personally do it through guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, and affirmations. We explore this in depth inside the 5 Day Back Pain Challenge as well!
4. Start Moving
I know we all suffered from exercise-phobia at one point or another during our healing journey. The truth is you HAVE to move for proper healing. Tissue in general cannot regenerate without movement. Let me repeat. It cannot regenerate without proper movement. Movement is what helps cells regenerate (especially joints and discs). It drives nutrients and oxygen to those cells and you need to be doing some form of movement everyday.
Of course you don’t want to be making things worse, and I am not suggesting you go running. Few minutes walk a day, strengthening exercises or core training will go along way in rebuilding your body back.
I know I threw a lot at you today, so I just want to summarize again all the points that I mentioned.
The first thing is; there’s no such thing as a bad muscle. You have to investigate the pain. Always ask questions even though the therapist is guessing what you may have. You kinda have to be your own doctor. You have to cultivate that body awareness, keep asking questions about what is causing the pain.
The second thing is your posture determines how the muscles behave. There are so many ways that you can do to see if your posture is aligned you can stand against a wall or in front of a mirror and notice how everything is aligned. I actually noticed, last year, that I had one shoulder that higher than the other. I corrected that with few postural therapies. Many people notice they have one leg longer than the other..that’s just another way of saying that you have one hip flexor tighter than the other :).
Don’t forget to also do mindset work to break free from the pain-mode. Believe it or not, stress and anger do manifest in the body as pain. Check out the work of Dr. Sarnos.
I like to throw everything at it. I don’t want to leave any area out, so I include everything in my healing journey.
And the last tip is to start moving. Do anything that moves you every day.
Don’t forget to grab your checklist!
Remember to take it one day at a time. It’s not supposed to be a 24 hour fix. When we get this pain, we think ‘oh I did something yesterday and now I’m experiencing is pain’. It doesn’t work that way. You have been doing all these little “wrong” things that were building up for months, or even years, and now you’ve actually reached that threshold where your body is giving your pain, signaling that something is off. So you have to fix whatever is given the signals but you also have to be patient with it.