This post is brought to you by the today’s Daily Post prompt. Transmogrify means “to change in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely; transform.” So consider the rather awkward and “hurts-so-good” yoga pose called the Pigeon Pose as a “transmogrifier” for your lower back and hip pain. No, really. Trust me.
I hurt every dang day of my life. The location and extent of the pain changes, but I cannot remember a day without pain as of late. Bouncing out of bed is no longer an option. I am slow to move as I am stiff and it hurts to straighten up and walk in the mornings. Some days the pain is all over, some days it’s more pronounced in the neck and shoulders, others it’s the lower back and/or one leg or another. This is not meant to be a pity party, but more of an explanation, and what I do to relieve my pain.
I have fibromyalgia and osteoporosis. Along with those, I have had MRIs over the years that have shown a herniated disc at the L5-S1, Spinal Stenosis, Spondylosis. Then there is also the Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome, Sciatica, Trochanteric Bursitis, and Piriformis Syndrome diagnoses. Suffice it to say I have pain in my lower back that sometimes radiates down my hips and legs, one or the other or both. I am never really clear which diagnosis it really is, but I have been to Physical Therapy twice over the years for the IT Band/Piriforma/Bursitis/Sciatica pain shooting down my legs. The two exercises that my physical therapist gave me that I regularly use for relief of this pain is: 1) Yoga – including the dreaded Pigeon Pose and 2) the Foam Roller.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Finding the proper treatment often times means finding the correct diagnosis. Fibromyalgia (FMS) and Myofascial Pain (MPS) can frequently be confused and can go hand-in-hand. FMS is characterized by 18 tender points in the body, whereas MPS is characterized by trigger points (hard knots under the skin). I have both, and I don’t consider myself lucky in that regard. It can be difficult to ascertain which is causing the pain of the day and therefore how to treat. And treating one can trigger a flare of the other. Here is a great article differentiating the two conditions and one explaining the difference between Tender Points (FMS) and Trigger Points.
Personally, I don’t react well to medications and I choose to treat my conditions with:
- Massage or physical therapy
- Topical prescription drug (Voltaren) or Icy Hot patches
- My TENS unit
- Heat and/or ice
These are my choices. I also choose to drag my sorry butt to work every day in spite of my condition and don’t play the victim. So, again, not a pity party!
It is estimated that 80% of the population will experience lower back pain in their lifetime.
What’s the Difference?
Today I am going to try to explain some of these different conditions and some at-home exercises you can try for relief.
Trochanteric (hip) bursitis is often seen with other conditions such as arthritis, low back pain, iliotibial band syndrome,and fibromyalgia. Bursitis simply means inflammation of a bursa – a small fluid-filled sac found between certain muscles, muscles and tendons, tendons and bone, etc. to prevent friction between tissues.
Piriformis syndrome patients describe acute tenderness in the buttock and sciatica-like pain down the back of the thigh, calf and foot. Typical symptoms may include:
- A dull ache in the buttock
- Pain down the back of the thigh, calf and foot (sciatica)
- Pain when walking up stairs or inclines
- Increased pain after prolonged sitting
- Reduced range of motion of the hip joint
Sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg. Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs)
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling, or searing (versus a dull ache)
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes
- A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk
- Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes (it rarely occurs only in the foot)
Iliotibial Band or IT Band (ITB) is a thick band of fascia that runs along the outside of the thigh from the top of the hip to the outside of your knee. And it is crucial for stabilizing the knee. The first time this was a problem for me was in 2009 after training for and walking the Breast Cancer 3-day –> 20 miles a day for 3 days! ITB Symptoms:
- Hip pain going up or down stairs or getting out of a car
- Pain as the foot strikes the ground
- Tingly sensation over the thigh.
- Pain at the pelvis or the outer edge of the knee
Confusing, right?!?! They all sound so similar! In the end, pain is pain. Sometimes the diagnosis doesn’t matter as much as relief from the pain.
How to Treat the Pain
Massage Therapy Deep massage (manual release) by a physical therapist or other qualified specialist is thought to enhance healing by increasing blood flow to the area and decreasing muscle spasm. You can get “trigger point” massages for certain areas. If you suffer from FMS, be sure to tell your therapist that and they can do a more relaxing massage therapy to get you some pain and stress relief. I don’t do this often enough. I sure wish massage therapy was covered under medical insurance and flexible spending plans! There are so many benefits to massage therapy, including the muscle memory! Your muscles learn to be more relaxed and flexible with regular use and therapy.
Range of motion exercises A physical therapist, chiropractor or other qualified health practitioner can develop a customized program of stretching and exercises to help stretch the muscle and decrease spasm. I used one who technically was a chiropractor but treated me more like a physical therapist – definitely my preference, although I did leave so bruised one time I told her it looked like she beat me with a bag of marbles. True story!
Here are some of the ones I mentioned earlier:
Pigeon Pose: This is the one that makes me think of that song “Hurts So Good” every time I do it. But it is oh, so good at releasing tension in your hips from sitting all day or chronic pain. I am not talking about some of the crazy variations that I have no idea how people manage to twist into like the flying pigeon or king pigeon. I am not a pretzel, man! Just give me the plain old Pigeon. It’s difficult enough!
Here are some tips for easing into the Pigeon Pose. But my best advice is to use a desk or table that is hip height if getting on the floor is challenging.
Foam Roller: These exercises were designed to facilitate self-myofascial release of the irritation and knots in our body tissues. People like me who are constantly stiff from the scourge of FMS can develop adhesions in the tissues that will limit your range of motion and decrease mobility. Doing these exercises correctly is important so make sure you are avoiding improper technique to get proper relief.
Finally, if you want to learn about an interesting theory on Lower Back Pain and Diet according to Mic The Vegan watch his video Why Blogilates Gets Low Back Pain – The Science. This is just one theory I threw in there – I am not a vegan. I was a vegetarian in my younger days, but I am not sure I could give it up again unless there was overwhelming and compelling data that it would cure all that ails me.
“Do or do not, there is no try”. ~Yoda
Curse or Bless the Pigeon
I know I have thrown a lot of information, links and videos at you today. I hope you try some of these and perhaps find some strategies that might give you some relief. And I really hope you aren’t cursing me or the pigeon pose right now. Remember, there is no failing without doing something first. Getting relief from our FMS or MPS pains is never a quick fix. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We must find the right combination of treatments that work for us, and be consistent with that treatment to get prolonged relief. The pigeon pose really is a blessing and a curse, but mostly a blessing.
Check out my Pinterest boards I have linked here for more tips on Healthy Living and Fibromyalgia. Do you have some other exercises that you use for lower back/hip/thigh pain? I would love to hear them!