Hi everyone 🙂
In today’s post I want to talk about Piriformis Syndrome and dealing with chronic hip injuries. Because being fit and healthy is not just about eating well and working out, it is also about injury prevention and keeping our bodies strong and balanced.
Update: 26-Apr-17: I am updating this post today to let you know that I have been pain-free for almost a year now. I have shared so much in blog posts so far about how I healed my low back and my experience with different treatments. My latest attempt has been completely shifting my perspective from what’s wrong with my body, to why is my body giving me these signals. After many years of trying to find a way to live daily without constant pain and spasms, I decided to share it all with you inside my program Back Pain Bootcamp. If you want to workout with me on a regular basis and do all the stretches, postural therapies as well as core and glute strengthening routines, don’t forget to check it out 🙂 I would be thrilled to help you in your healing journey.
Update 31-May-16: I, unfortunately, had another flare up this week accompanied by spasms and pain, I am using all the techniques described in this post to accelerate the healing process. So far the symptoms are improving. I am letting it settle before I start any kind of stretching or strengthening program.
Piriformis Syndrome – Short intro.
Piriformis syndrome is a chronic pelvic injury, where the Piriformis muscle (deep buttock muscle) spasms and results in pain all around the hip area. The pain can sometimes travel down along the leg and this is due to the Piriformis muscle irritating the sciatic nerve. Check out this article for more information on Piriformis Syndrome if you are not quite familiar with this type of injury.
If you have been dealing with hip pain related to unstable pelvis/SI joint, weak glute med; which are all factors contributing to the Piriformis muscle spasming, you probably have been reading all about this issue over the internet, and searching for ways to fix it..and then you probably realized that there is a ton of information out there on hip problems suggesting a quick fix.
The Internet does a great job providing us with plenty of resources to explain almost anything we type on google search, and that is great! It is always great to learn about our physiology and to educate ourselves.
yet, If all the information we need is right there, how come we still cannot get it sorted out?
Yes, there is so much information out there. Lots of “how to fix Piriformis syndrome” videos on youtube, stretches to do everyday, exercises to stabilize the hips, foam rolling techniques, tennis ball massage, deep tissue massage, acupuncture…
Believe me, I tried them ALL (and I’m sure you did too)
We are unique. A treatment that works for me may not work best for you.
Each of the above-mentioned techniques or treatment methods can work amazingly for me, yet not quite well for you. I remember every time I foam rolled, the spasms intensified, yet the tennis ball massage against the wall provided instant relief. I am sure you have experienced the same by now! We just have to accept and respect the fact that our bodies respond differently to treatments 🙂
PS: to supplement this guide, I created this checklist that you can download and go back to monitor what’s working for you:
The power of our habits.
Have you been spending your time and money on physio clinics, yet sitting for long hours with a bad posture/sitting for long hours in general for long periods of time with no breaks? Then I encourage you to work on restoring your posture as you are treating the Piriformis syndrome because that is the root cause of hip imbalances.
An amazing read is Pain-Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain– I bought this book for $10 on Amazon and it completely transformed how I look at my body now! posture is everything. Fix your posture and you never have to worry about muscle tension.
Now before I jump into my list of do’s and don’ts:
If you are on a treatment now that is helping you, then definitely stay consistent with it. Always do what works best for you and what your body want. If you want to try different methods, always consult with your physician first.
My opinion and advice in this post are not meant to substitute your physician’s advice, I simply want this post to supplement your current treatment, and provide a moral support to show you that, yes it can be fixed!
So let’s get started.
Listening to your body and respecting the healing phase.
Right after an injury happens, we tend to quickly start feeling angry at ourselves or at the whole situation. Especially, with chronic injuries that just don’t seem to want to go away. So we push hard, and don’t respect the healing process.
This is where I slipped big time. After ingesting a cocktail of drugs every night to be able to sleep, I would wake up feeling relatively better the next day, forgetting that drugs do a great job hiding the pain for a short period of time, only to have the pain back in few hours during the next day and most of the time, it was ten times worse.
Okay everyone..I want to be transparent here.
This is my list of all the mindless actions I did, that either contributed to Piriformis syndrome and/or made the condition worsen.
- Sitting for long periods of time.
- Foam rolling during episodes of spasms and pain – intensified the pain.
- Over stretching.
- Practicing activities/workouts that require jumping (PLYOMETRICS).
- Feeling stressed out and lack of rest.
- Taking all kinds of medications thinking they will somehow fix my hips.
- Doing too much of strengthening exercises prescribed by Physiotherapists too soon. I’m talking like 3 times a day (I thought it would accelerate the healing)
- Not looking for the root cause of my right hip spasming. Just kept doing the same massages and stretches.
- Feeling hopeless every night and devastated that I would never be back to normal and able to do my workouts.
Now on to the list of actions that have helped me heal, be Piriformis free 🙂
DIET – I was starting to see symptoms from all the medication I was taking, and started looking for alternatives. While a pill here and there helped on really painful days, yet I did not want to be ingesting 3 magic pills twice a day. it was not a sustainable solution for me.
- Cleaning out my diet inside out. Eating whole anti-inflammation foods every day in addition to ginger and turmeric teas on painful nights. Turmeric and ginger are natural anti-inflammatories.
*Drinking 2-3 liters of water every day – Joints need water to stay lubricated so DRINK UP.
- Keep moving – short walks, low impact upper body workouts, and CORE training. I still moved every day, even if it was just an upper-body short workout using a resistance band, but your body needs good blood circulation to accelerate the healing process.
*The Pain-Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain book was a HUGE help. It follows the egoscue method, which focuses on fixing the posture and correcting your imbalances. The exercises are clearly explained, easy to follow and are designed to restore the hips and relieve pain. It was definitely one of the top books that helped me heal Piriformis syndrome. The Egoscue method just worked.
- Getting a stand-up desk – or get up and move around every 15 minutes: I used a table that I placed on top of my original desk, it worked! I alternate between standing and sitting to keep my body moving. This is critical to keep your joints healthy, hips flexible and increase circulation.
- Minimized stretching: gentle stretching once or twice a day with one or two movements is Okay. No deep stretching when the muscle was spasming or having pain. This aggravated the pain.
- Started strengthening the glute med with proper form: Side leg raises, clams and hip bridges with core engaged were amazingly helpful. Make sure you do them with correct form otherwise you will be wasting your time. These exercises if done correctly will stabilize the pelvis, strengthen the glute med and get you moving pain-free in no time.
- Tennis ball against the wall worked amazingly for me. I could easily control the pressure thus around the area.
- Started asking questions and figuring out why the muscle was spasming in the first place. In most cases, the Piriformis is spasming because it is working too hard to pull the hip back to its normal position. This means some pelvis adjustment by a certified professional or chiropractor would help achieve longer lasting results than only messages to fix the symptoms (releasing the muscle).
- Write down your fitness goals every morning. I was determined to gain my health back and be able to squat and lunge again.
- Taking a break from leg days: I was doing mainly upper body workouts. I had to keep working out and keep moving. I rested and mentally prepared for leg days that were waiting for me in few more weeks 🙂
I am sure that by now you have tried every magic treatment on earth to fix it. The lists are things that have worked well for me, I had some successes and failures throughout the way. If something works best for you than other, keep doing it and share your experience.
PS: grab your piriformis syndrome healing checklist
Update 23-Jun-16: Click here to read part 2 of this blog post: How to heal piriformis syndrome when you have tried everything else.