Being an active person leads to injury, no doubt. All the runners, swimmers, gym rats, cyclists, athletes of any kind that I have ever known get injured from time to time. Most often for me, injury comes from COLLISION! Crashing into trees, rocks, curbs, cars, did I mention trees? Especially in my early days of mountain biking, I crashed a lot. I always had scrapes and bruises, sore muscles, aches, and pains. In the last couple of years, the trail rash has come less and less frequently. Today, my pain stems from who knows where…probably overuse or over-extension at some point in time that I didn’t allow to heal and now I HURT! It hurts to sit, it hurts to climb stairs, sometimes it even hurts just to walk. Funny enough, it typically doesn’t hurt when I ride my bike or run and yoga typically makes it feel better for a short while. Though all of these activities will make it hurt when I overdo it…which isn’t often, but not uncommon either.
So, I’ve done some research talked to friends and family who have had similar troubles, and talked to the best massage therapist in the area. Everyone settles on one problem – piriformis. The piriformis is one of six external rotators, and one of the larger ones at that. The external rotators are what provide rotational mobility and strength to your legs. They’re pretty crucial elements to our make-up. The piriformis seems to be especially problematic because, after injury or strain, it can become inflamed and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. When this happens, victims can suffer intense pain in their hips, back, legs, knees, ankles, and feet (specifically the one associated with the inflammation, in my case, the right hip, leg, and foot). Fortunately for me, mine isn’t that bad, but it is bad enough that I dread certain activities, sometimes even riding my bike. The bugger about an inflamed piriformis is that extended periods of sitting only exacerbate it, and I have a desk job where I sit the majority of 8 hours a day.
I don’t want to live a life of avoidance, especially due to something as trivial as physical pain, so I’ve done some more research. I’ve been in for a deep tissue massage, which helped a lot. Over the holidays, I wasn’t at work and stayed pretty active most of the time. With the exception of two 10+ hour drives, I managed to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Through my massage therapist and some internet research, I also found a number of yoga postures and sequences designed to loosen up the hip flexor muscles. These include all three warrior poses, triangle and reverse triangle, as well as pigeon pose, king pigeon, the heel to butt stretch (you put the affected heel on the opposite knee in a figure 4 position and pull your knee to your chest) and several supine poses. Despite yoga nearly every day for two and a half weeks, after three days at work, the pain in my ass (not my boss…) has returned.