Sat with Nat

Managing my persnickety piriformis 

I joke that I carry my work stress in my shoulders and my family stress in my hips. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor once a month for many years to help manage joint and muscle pain. 

Often what causes me the most grief is my right piriformis. It’s a small muscle under the gluteus medius that wraps from the lower side of the tail bone to the top of your thigh bone. It’s the spot that aches in pidgeon pose. That little muscle does a lot of work when I sit, walk, run or ride my bike. 

Lately it’s been hurting a lot more. Part of it is from the lateral movements in the exercise class I go to. Another contributing factor is I’m a side sleeper so I rest on my hip. 

In addition to seeing a chiropractor I also get massages. I’m so grateful to have those two touchpoints in my month where I pay attention to how my body is doing. After an adjustment or a massage I feel the lactic acid flood the now relaxed muscles. My range of motion waxes and wanes between those visits. 

I decided I needed to do more as the pain has become more bothersome, waking me up in the night, causing me to grunt when I stand up out of my chair. 

I cobbled together a yoga flow that helped me. It covers the basics and warms up my hips before a good stretch. I love starting with Cat/Cow. It’s a great way to check in with my back and hips. I go into Threading the Needle on both sides, Child’s Pose, Downward Dog, Lunges moving back and forth, Pidgeon, Firelog pose and Cradle the Baby. It’s at times uncomfortable but I feel so much better after. My sleep has improved. 

I also found this great tutorial on dealing with piriformis pain.
Sadly Kai Wheeler seems to no longer be producing material. I love her approach and instruction. The routine takes about 20 minutes and has been a good morning routine. 

A selfie of Natalie wearing sunglasses and a blue backpack. The smile lines on her face frame a slight grin, like she has just let you in on a very funny joke.
A selfie of Natalie wearing sunglasses and a blue backpack. The smile lines on her face frame a slight grin, like she has just let you in on a very funny joke.

My hip is still achy but I’m hopeful taking the time to care for it will give me some relief. 

9 thoughts on “Managing my persnickety piriformis 

  1. I think I have something similar. Although my guilty habit of googling led me to, possibly, lower cross syndrome. Either way it’s sore and hip focused. What helps me is a pigeon held for ages. And, regrettably, reducing eating delicious inflammatory food.

    I found your post really useful. Thanks

    1. Ugh. Hip pain is nebulous and complicated. I didn’t know that little muscle existed untouched chiropractor talked to me about it. It may not be what’s causing your discomfort. I’m a big fan of consulting a healthcare professional but I’m able to do that at no cost.
      I hope you find ways to get relief.
      And thank you for letting me know this was a helpful post 🙂

  2. Great post and really useful video link too – thanks. I will definitely having a go at the lacrosse ball release technique.
    It’s worth noting that piriformis stretch based on the Pigeon pose can also be done conveniently in the office using a work table. I also have tight piriformis (in fact, when my colleagues all had a go at this stretch in the office one day, it seemed like a pretty common problem, especially amongst the keen runners) that affects my long distance cycling and use this every morning when I’ve cycled in to work as I find it’s that combination of a short intense ride followed by 8 hours of sitting that does the damage.

    1. The combination of intense movement bracketed by sitting is totally a thing! Thank you for that insight.
      I will have to give the desktop stretch a go. At home I’ve used a countertop and the porch railing but they are pretty high for someone as short as me.

  3. Yes, great post & video (she looks and sounds great). Have you also tried a Psoas release for your hip? (I’m a Pilates instructor with an interest in stored Psoas stress). Try searching Liz Koch for in depth info. Cheers from Australia 🙂

  4. This was really interesting Natalie. My hips are very tight as a result of a hypermobile Sacroiliac joint. I should remember to do the pigeon pose more often. Thanks!

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