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Piriformis Syndrome Strikes Again: 4 Keys for Fast Relief

Posted Feb 12 2013 7:06am

Okay, so I really should have seen this one coming.

After four consecutive runs — two of them atop snow-covered pathways — I woke up on Sunday morning with pain radiating from my right hip and, yes, my tush. Not the type of pain where I know all I need is a good stretch either; these were the first signs of an issue I know all too well. Piriformis syndrome. (Cue the ominous music now.)

Whereas years ago, I’d have ignored the symptoms, ran through it and neglected to take any action, I’m now a far wiser runner. Not only do I know its indications, but I am also aware of how to address them — and quickly.

This time around, I’d nip the pain in the butt bud. Here’s how.

1. Roll it out. 

I’m the first to admit that I’m the worst when it comes to foam rolling after a run.

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(This is a rare occurrence.)

While I may be the laziest runner alive (though I know there are others of you out there!), I am also very much aware of my faults.

Foam rolling is an imperative ingredient in the recipe for running health nonetheless. In the last few days, I’ve been far more conscious of this need, making sure to use this handy tool even if only for a minute or two at a time.

2. Shake it out.

Trust me, I would have loved to run down to Soho this past Sunday — both sunny and warm — just like I did on Thursday.

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I love it down there. It’s unique. The buildings are less overwhelming. The streets are not as crowded.

But when it came down to it, I knew that I’d be unable to go as far as Houston Street given my current state (it’s roughly 2 miles from home). One or two slow miles was about all I could have — and should have — mustered.

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The important thing to remember with piriformis syndrome is that one wrong step can push your body over the edge. If you do plan to run despite the onset of pain, keep it slow, keep it short, and avoid any particularly hilly areas.

Sunday’s excursion took me to Madison Square Park and the likes. During my run, I made sure to stay in the area near my apartment to avoid that “crap I’ve gone too far” moment.

3. Knead it out.

While at my last job, as editor for a start-up in the healthcare space, I learned a lot about the various ways to take care of one’s body — especially via massage. Did you know that, oftentimes, when you’re experiencing pain in one area of your body, it’s actually because of another tense or knotted locale? I didn’t, but this revelation has literally changed the way I perceive my day to day well-being.

Piriformis syndrome can be caused by one of many factors: weak gluteal muscles and tight IT bands to name a couple. Sunday night, as I forced Noah to search for the culprit (while nabbing a nice little massage — muhaha), we discovered that the tension was actually stemming from a rock-hard back.

Amazingly enough, a few minutes after massaging the affected area to the right of my spine, the pain in my hip immediately began to lessen. Even if not completely, this massage was definitely the first step to easing the issue.

4. Stretch it out.

Like I said, Sunday’s much-needed massage was a great start to my recovery. But to continue on the road to wellness, I knew that it’d be smart to follow up with some Monday morning stretches.

It was rainy and gray outside anyway on Monday, giving me the perfect excuse to forgo running in place of a bit of yoga fun. All I did was a simple search on the Tara Stiles YouTube channel for hip opening poses, and what I found was this little sequence of five targeted positions .

Among some of my favorites were:

1. Lunge, which is perfect for runners especially.

Picture 1

2. Pigeon, which is the Holy Grail of yoga poses for anyone with piriformis syndrome.

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3. Ankle to knee? Whatever you call this one. Sometimes, I do it in bed because it just feels so good, and it’s easy.

Picture 3

So there you have it. Shake, roll, knead, stretch. And if that fails, just pour yourself a big glass of wine. That usually does the trick too.

With a little luck, I’ll be back out there in just a few day’s time. Hopefully, my fellow piriformis syndrome sufferers will be too.

  • Have you ever dealt with a bout of piriformis syndrome, or just tight hips in general?
  • Do you have a go-to strategy for sudden runner’s pain?

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