Friday, November 27, 2009

What to do about that Pain in your Butt: Piriformis or Gluteus Medius?

There are so many things to be thankful for at Thanksgiving time. One thing that I am thankful for this year is that my back and hips have probably felt the best that they have felt in about 25 years. I can stand, sit, walk around, and go through my day without the pains that I have had since the mid 1980s. My daily life feels so much better. When I stop running for a few days it feels really good. At this point however, once I start running and particularly when I try to run fast it doesn't work so well. I seem to have lost a lot of the little bit of speed I had over the past two years.

When I do try to run fast my imbalances take over and the success I have had during the sedentary part of my day hasn't been accomplished yet. I am learning how to get out of the pain and tightness I have had in the past where once I get stuck or imblanced and my body would go through a week or two week cycle where I couldn't fix it. Now I can usually fix things in a day or two. That is all great and I feel I am on the right path to regaining some running success. One thing I have noticed this year is that after most track workouts or races my left gluteal muscles tighten up and I end up limping for a few hours or days before it calms down.

I had the same thing after yesterday's Thanksgiving 5K race at Nashua South High School. The gluteal and lower back region tightened up during the race and by the end I was limping and unable to even run a warm down. I am guessing that I get this due to my poor biomechanics and running with imbalances which leaves to a stress on the muscles. It comes when I run fast and demand more from my body in power and more specifically range of motion. So what to do?

First is a nerve flossing stretch that I really like. I previously wrote about nerve flossing here. I am working on things in my left foot and ankle that seem promising (haven't reported here yet) and that will give me more balance and effecient movement. As I make positive changes it does change the stress on the gluteal muscles (everything is connected) as I straighten up my stride. I have been trying a few new stretches and exercises for these muscles and thought I'd share them here. I am paying more attention to the piriformis nerve flossing stretch that I linked to in that post. For some reason, this time when I followed the video and did the stretch 20 times it worked a whole lot better. It seemed to be targeting exactly where I was tight so I will continue duing this one. Here is the video again:

Here is another stretch for the hip rotators and piriformis that I have never seen before. This one felt good too.

Finally, not knowing which muscle of mine is really being irritated: the piriformis, the gluteus minimus, or some other neighboring butt muscle, here is a good video explanation showing how to use a tennis ball to work on the gulteus minimus. You can use a tennis ball, a TPMassage ball, or a hard rubber ball. I use all three at different times.

Here is a good article on the anatomy of the hips and back and it shows how to use the TP Massage balls and rollers to loosen tightnesses and imblances.You could also use a tennis ball or a foam roller to do the same thing. I have had the TP Massage products for a couple of years and am learning how to responsibly use them (rather than beat myself up with them) through two of their DVD's that I recently bought. I got the Hip and Lower Back DVD and the Foot and Lower Leg DVD. Previously I had just used the Ultimate 6 book that they sold, but I work better when I see a video then read it in a book as I don't always pick up the subtle nuances and tend to do things to quick and too hard.

I ran the Great Gobbler 5k on Thanksgiving on limited mileage and no speed work and it showed. The course is a bit long (I see it is listed as a 5.25 K in the race results) and I ran 20:46 for 31st place and 2nd out of 47 in the 50-59 age group. It is a low key race so I don't think the splits and finish time are too accurate but at the one mile mark I was 6:07 and I was 12:10 at the two mile mark. Then I started passing people who had passed me in the first two miles. I was placed real well for the first 1/4 mile until Steve Wolfe bumped me at the corner around the purple shed and ruined my chance to run better and allowed 20-30 people to pass for a while! Anyhow that is 36 seconds slower than last year. It is also much worse than my 18:09 time in 2007 (shorter course) and my 18:16 in 2006. Did I really slow down that much in such a short time?


Steve Wolfe said...

Sorry I wrecked your chance for a win Jim!
It's not often I'm one of the tallest runners lined up at the start! I was playing duck-duck-goose with the kids on the track, trying to steer them with their heads as I went around them. Oh well.

Jim Hansen said...

Ha Steve,
All the little kids were smoking the start. It's amazing what a little bump can do for your concentration. I don't think I would have got the "win" but I certainly could have held my postition another ten yards if you hadn't bumped me.
Nice job with the race, you started with the little people but finished with the big boys!