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Piriformis Syndrome: A (real) Pain in The Ass

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks back, one of the things that happens as you grow older is that you find yourself learning about parts of your...

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks back, one of the things that happens as you grow older is that you find yourself learning about parts of your body you never knew you had.

In my case, I have an ache in my piriformis muscle which is, quite literally, a pain in the ass. Turns out, I suffer from something called piriformis syndrome, which is – let’s face it – a bit less dramatic than Stockholm Syndrome, but sounds momentous nonetheless. While they can’t be sure, the doctors here think it came about because I run a fair bit.

For the most part – and per my mother’s example – I manage this pain through assorted stretches and the like.

But once in awhile, it really gets  the best of me. Like yesterday. Despite taking round-the-clock ibuprofen coupled with a stronger (prescription) anti-inflammatory, I had this piercing, stabbing pain that started below my sacrum and extended all the way down my right leg to my ankle. (As a new found expert on Piriformis Syndrome, allow me to explain that the piriformis muscle is sometimes wrapped around the sciatic nerve, such that when the muscle becomes inflamed, it literally squeezes the nerve, with ripple effects all the way down one’s leg…ah, the joys of WebMD!)

I’ve been here before. Last fall, I did several rounds of physical therapy to cure this problem. I had this really hot “physio” massaging my bum twice a week for two months which, in another day/time/galaxy, might have been considered sexy.

In the event, it was just really painful.

When things get really bad, I start popping pills. Last summer when “the syndrome” first presented itself, I spent a week in bed taking muscle relaxants while watching the Olympics. It was my very worst nightmare of the 50s housewife come true:  prescription pain killers coupled with daytime TV. The doctors were reluctant to give me the meds because, apparently, people get easily hooked (and having now popped a few myself, I can readily see why…).

But it’s not just this muscle that tells me I’m aging. It’s the “Sensodyne” tooth paste I recently bought at the pharmacy. And the osteopath I needed to see last year for the persistent pain in my shoulder.

The bottom line: We’re getting old, folks. Or at least I am.

I think about the only positive thing to come out of this whole experience is that, having never been a sporty sorta gal before, I now have a bona fide sports injury. My father would be so proud.

*****
Great article in The New York Times recently about the effects of friendship on health.

Image: Pillz by Rbatina via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Joe April 23, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    Have you considered the possibility of an herniated disk?
    It can happen progressively, rather than be caused by a specific trauma.
    Your symptoms sound identical to mine, and the herniation was confirmed by MRI a few months ago.

  2. delialloyd April 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm #

    no but thanks for the suggestion, Joe!

  3. judy April 23, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    Actually, I’ve been struggling with sciatic pain myself, though I fear mine may really be of the getting-old-suck-it-up variety. (Needs a better name!)

    I laughed at your parting thought. Last summer, I broke my wrist in a mountain bike crash. I was so relieved that I injured myself doing something cool. Made me feel like I’m not old yet! ;-)

  4. Jenny April 25, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    My simple solution to a similar piriformis problem was a tennis ball. If you lay on top of it gravity works better than all the physical therapy and stretching I tried. Start on a soft surface like the bed and as the muscle relaxes you can move to the floor.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  5. karoline May 13, 2009 at 6:19 am #

    Have you thought about trying acupuncture? I get really great results when treating piriformis syndrome. You’d be surprised how quickly it can make a difference. You have my email, feel free to contact me if you’d like me to find you an acupuncturist in your area. (I’m no where near you myself, but am happy to send an email to the alumni mailing list to ask.)

  6. Barbara Swafford June 16, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Hi Delia,

    I realize this post is a little old, but when I had sciatica with symptoms similar to what you described, what worked best for me were visits to a chiropractor. They did “gentle” adjustments and after a couple of months, I was pain free. Now I’m very careful how lift things and try not to tweak my back when making twisting movements.

  7. Daigle August 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

    You’re not the only one suffering from piriformis syndrome. I have it too, so I created an educational site to help others with the disorder. Here are some statistics about Piriformis Syndrome that I’ve compiled.

    Thanks!

    Bryan Daigle

  8. Leida Hellickson April 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    Nice article. I sent this to some dentist I know that could use this on their blog..

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