When you think of what to eat for dinner, you probably don’t take your aching joints or throbbing back into account. But you very well should.
The food you eat can play a major role in how you feel – and that includes your physical aches and pain.
Sure, you know acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can make your heartburn rear up, and onions or beans may make you uncomfortably gassy, but here we’re talking about pain from inflammation – the kind linked to arthritis, muscle pain and more.
Certain foods are highly inflammatory, which makes sense because inflammation is part of your body’s immune response – and 70 percent of your immune system cells are in your gut.
While inflammation is beneficial in the short term (it helps your wounds and infections heal), when inflammation becomes chronic – as it can when you eat pro-inflammatory foods – it contributes to disease and exacerbates pain.
That being said, following are some of the worst foods for pain, which should be strategically avoided if you want to minimize your level of pain.
5 Top Worst Pain-Causing Foods
Cookies, candy, ice cream, brownies, doughnuts … all of these are loaded with sugar, which drives up your blood sugar and insulin, along with levels of inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
4. Bagels, Muffins and Pasta
Any member of the refined carbohydrate family – white bread, muffins, pasta, bagels, etc. – drives up inflammation due to the same reasons as sugar. In fact, there’s not much difference between refined carbs like a bagel and a heaping serving of sugar, as far as your body is concerned.
3. French Fries
These make the list because they’re a common source of synthetic trans fats, which come from foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil. Trans fats are strongly linked to systemic, chronic inflammation[i] … and are so bad for you that the Institute of Medicine recommends you simply keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.[ii]
French fries are by no means the only culprit; trans fats are also commonly found in savory snacks (like microwave popcorn), frozen pizzas, cake, cookies, pie, margarines and spreads, ready-to-use frosting, and coffee creamers.
2. Blackened or Barbecued Foods
Any time a food is cooked at high temperature (this includes foods that are broiled, fried, grilled, blackened, barbecued, etc.), toxic advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are formed. AGEs are readily absorbed by your body, where they wreak havoc, causing high levels of inflammation. While grilling, frying and broiling your food is known to increases AGEs, stewing, boiling, braising, crock pot or steaming will instead help minimize the amount formed in your food.
1. Vegetable Oils (Polyunsaturated)
Soybean, corn, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils are examples of vegetable oils that are rich in omega-6 fats, which most Americans consume far too much of (pick up any processed food in your pantry and you’ll probably see soybean oil or corn oil on the label). Excess omega-6 fats are highly inflammatory, which is why it’s important to limit the amount of vegetable oils you consume.
Ice or heat? Heat or ice? That’s probably the most common question asked about treating back pain. The best way to answer it, I have found, is to explain exactly what ice and heat do and why they help relieve pain. Once you understand the mechanism behind these treatments, you’ll be more likely to use them correctly when your own back pain flares up.
The Pain-Spasm Cycle
Let’s say you have sciatica. Your piriformis muscle goes into spasm. Your body reacts to this “injury” by sending more white blood cells to the injury site to fight the problem. That means fewer red blood cells go there, which means the injured area is getting less oxygen and nutrients, and waste products aren’t being carried away. This causes what’s called Secondary Hypoxic Injury. The site is actually injured even more by lack of oxygen (hypoxia).
This may also put the muscle into a pain-spasm cycle. The injury triggers nerves to send signals to the brain, which interprets it as pain. This pain tells the brain to send a signal back to the injured area, which contracts the muscles to close off blood supply to prevent swelling. But this lack of blood supply actually leads to more pain, more swelling, and more spasms!
To review: The initial spasm causes pain and swelling, which leads to more injury and further spasms. More pain, more spasms, more pain, more spasms—a vicious cycle. Without treatment, this cycle can last for years. The only way to begin healing the sciatica is to break this cycle. That’s where ice and heat come into play.
Breaking the Cycle
Heat and ice both do same thing—they shock the body into breaking the pain/spasm cycle. Heat causes the body to circulate more blood to the area in order to cool it down. That brings more oxygen and nutrients, and removes waste products, which help heal the tissue. Cold offers the same result from the other end. When ice is placed on an area the body sends more blood to the area to warm it up and promote healing.
Heat or cold also shut down the nerves that fire the pain signals. Heat relaxes them while cold numbs them. When the brain doesn’t get the pain signals, it doesn’t act to contract muscles and constrict blood flow. After applying heat or cold consistently and continually for a certain period of time, the pain/spasm cycle is broken. Then, real healing can begin.
So Which Is Better, Ice or Heat?
If both heat and ice do the same thing, then which is better to treat back pain? There are really no hard and fast rules, but I typically have my patients do the following:
1. When an injury first occurs, apply ice. This is true whether the injury is acute (caused by some trauma like lifting something heavy or sitting too long) or subacute (a flare-up of a chronic condition, like sciatica). It’s also important to use ice fast. You need to get ice to the injury within 5 minutes to get the best effect. If you’re not at home and don’t have ice handy, head to the 7-11 and buy a bag of ice. Even something as simple as a bag of frozen peas will work. Apply ice for 20 minutes then take it off for 20. Repeat as often as you can for the first 48-72 hours.
2. After 48-72 hours, when you feel the swelling has gown down and the pain-spasm cycle is broken, you can begin stretching the injured muscle with the appropriate exercises. At this point, choosing ice or heat is really up to you. Most people like to apply heat before they exercise and ice after. Either way, you’re getting red blood cells to the area to promote healthy healing.
3. For a really advanced treatment plan, I recommend a contrast bath. Try 20 minutes of heat followed immediately by 20 minutes of ice. Repeat three times. The contrast really shocks the body and gets it out of the pain/spasm cycle.
What to Use and How to Apply
Let’s review the various way you can apply ice or heat and the devices that are available to do so. Let’s start with ice.
There are chemical ice packs. I personally do not recommend these because they can get too cold and burn the tissue. There is the good old bag of frozen vegetables–not great, plus it is a bit of a waste. There are pain creams that use Menthol to give a cold sensation to the skin. These work great and they can be applied ASAP.
The best application of ice I have found is to use a Zip-loc bag with crushed ice in a bit of water, Remove all of the air from the bag and then zip it closed. It is best to also put a wet paper towel on your skin over the affected area then apply the ice bag.
To further improve the effectiveness of ice, first rest the injured area, then use a wrap over the ice pack to improve the contact with the skin and to compress the area to minimize the swelling. If the area can be elevated (such as a leg or limb), please try to do this to allow the area to drain at the same time.
Now let’s talk heat, my favorite form of therapy. There are heating lamps, heating pads, hot tubs, hot showers, pain creams with cayenne pepper, and even ultrasound (which is a form of heat).
I know what you are going to ask which works the best. Personally, I love the hot tub. Unfortunately I do not own one and going to a community hot tub is like taking a dip in a cesspool (you can look up the definition).
With that said, as technology advances and becomes cheaper for the masses, far-infrared heat is by far at the top of my list now. Far-infrared heat transforms safe light energy into safe heat energy, at a frequency that penetrates the body up to three inches with an even distribution and prolonged thermal effects.
The Path to Pain Relief
Remember that heat and ice are not the solution to long-term pain relief. They are paths toward a solution. The goal of both ice and heat is to break the pain/spasm cycle and allow you to do the stretching exercises that build muscle strength and flexibility. That’s what brings prolonged pain relief. And that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
Far-Infared (Healthy Back Institute)
Did you know that after a normal day’s activities, you can lose up to three-quarters of an inch in height? That’s the force of gravity working along with muscle imbalances, compressing the vertebrae of the spine together.
Your nerve system runs through your spine and the individual discs allow the nerves to pass through each vertebral joint. The discs act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to flex. When gravity compresses the spine, fluid squeezes out of the discs into the surrounding tissues. The delicate nerve roots passing through the vertebrae can become pinched, causing pain. Uneven pressure on the individual discs can lead to bulging and herniation, serious conditions that can cause damage to the spine along with chronic pain.
So, what’s an Inversion Table and how can it help?
Inversion Therapy is not new. In fact, it’s been safely and successfully used for over 2000 years to treat back pain.
An Inversion Table is a comfortable, sturdy “table” that gently swings backwards to allow you to “invert” yourself to varying degrees. Inverting yourself to as little as 25 degrees for just a few minutes, you begin to enjoy the many benefits of Inversion Therapy.
Almost immediately after tilting the table back, you feel a rush of relaxation through your entire body. Gravity now works in your favor to gently stretch the spine, allowing compressed vertebrae to re-open. Fluid flows back into the discs. Nerve roots are freed, easing pain. Even a herniated disc can pop back into place. Within seconds of inverting, your muscles and ligaments begin to relax. Stress and tension ease away. A surge in lymphatic flow flushes trapped waste products from muscle tissue. The result is less stiffness and pain.
Along with decompression of the spine and relaxation of the muscles, here are other benefits of Inversion Therapy:
- Boosts mental sharpness and brain function by increasing flow of fresh, oxygenated blood to your brain and upper body
- Clears blood from your feet, legs, and lower body, and helps to drain varicose veins
- Stimulates the flow of the lymph system, helping to clear toxins from the body
- Tones and lifts inner organs, improving blood flow and supporting good digestion and waste elimination
- Eases pressure on weight-bearing joints and helps maintain flexibility of your joints and spine
Watch inversion demo HERE.
As everyone knows, you can’t avoid stress. It’s found at work, at home, while you are driving to the mall. As animals, we are programmed to respond to stress. It’s called the fight-or-flight response. When animals are presented with a stressful situation, they rapidly produce adrenaline in order to deal with it immediately—by fighting or running away. That removes the stress, and they then get on with their lives.
Humans, however, often haven’t learned how to deal with modern stressors. We can’t fight being stuck in traffic, and we can’t run away from our crazy boss. We can’t control what life throws at us.
But we can control how we react to it. And when we do, we can eliminate the stress.
The Mind-Body Connection
Lots of proof that mental states affect physical states as well. Stress linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity insomnia, and even early death.
A large study in England found that work-related stress increased risk of heart disease by 68 percent.
Stress has been found to cause increases in C-reactive protein, one of the major biomarkers for heart disease. It also affects heart rate variability—the heart’s ability to change its pumping rate to meet your body’s needs. This can predict heart disease better than smoking, high-fat diet or lack of exercise.
There is even a name for stress-related heart damage: metabolic cardiac necrosis.
Change Your Mind About Stress
As I said, you can’t avoid stress, but you can control how you react to it.
- Don’t yell, laugh. When something stressful happens, take a deep breath before your curse, scream or cry. Find the humor in it and laugh. Or at least keep it in perspective. Will being five minutes late really make a difference? Did your son’s spilled milk really ruin your morning?
- Treat yourself to relaxation. Make time for massages, a sauna or steam bath, exercise, aromatherapy, a vacation, more sex—whatever helps your body produce natural relaxation hormones like serotonin.
- Try calming herbs. One of my favorites is roseroot, an ancient Chinese medicine used to combat stress and prolong life.
Breathe Through Stress
We are aerobic creatures—we need oxygen to live. Breathing techniques, which have been used by Eastern religions for centuries, help oxygenate your body and remove stress—it’s literally, “out with the bad, in with the good.”
Stress lowers immunity by changing the genetic workings of your cells, making them unable to fight the effects of your anxiety. But deep controlled breathing can reignite your immunity and help you fight off stress.
I recommend a breathing practice called sudarshan kriya, or SK. It’s actually a series of three different breathing patterns.
1. Sit comfortably on the floor, spine straight. Breathe through your nose while making a quiet whisper sound through your half-closed mouth. Inhale long and smoothly for 5-6 seconds. Feel the air flow deep into your lungs all the way down to your kidneys. Exhale the same way for 5-6 seconds. Repeat 20 times. (It may take you a while to work up to that many, so start with 5-10 and gradually increase.)
2. Breathe fully but gently through the nose, expanding both your chest and belly as you do. Then exhale hard, pulling your belly in toward your spine as you do. Work up to 40 cycles.
3. Similar to part 2, except this time you expand your chest as you inhale, then compress your chest and belly as you exhale. Again, work up to 40 repetitions.
If all this seems too much, simplify it. Whenever you feel stressed, just take deep, slow breaths that fill your body cavity all the way down to your belly. Become fully aware of your breathing pattern. Within a short period of time, you’ll be amazed at how your stress washes away and your mood and energy level improve.
Nighttime pain is a cause of distress for millions of people. It seems that in the evenings when people are worn out from their long day and the body is shutting down its defenses, pain seems to jump front and center. And without the ability to ease the pain, inflammation, tightness and stress… getting a deep, sound sleep is next to impossible.
Watch Your Diet
The food we eat is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to controlling inflammation and indigestion, which themselves cause pain. The typical American diet consists of too much fat, tons of sugar, loads of red meat, and a frightening amount of processed foods — all of which are likely to increase inflammation and indigestion. By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet plan consisting of healthy whole foods, you can actually decrease inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort associated with it.
Eating plenty of whole grain and complex carbohydrates, as well as consuming ample fresh water, will help your stools move, decrease constipation and limit indigestion. Adding more of the aromatic spices to dishes (like ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, curry) also aid the body in naturally fighting inflammation, pain and help expel toxins. In addition, avoiding the nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant) will help as these have been shown to increase inflammation, which increases discomfort and pain.
Have a Good Laugh
The notion that laughter is good for the body has been around for thousands of years – certainly as far back as the Old Testament. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Seventeenth century English physician Dr. Thomas Sydenham remarked, “The arrival of a good clown exercises more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than of twenty asses laden with drugs.” Or as the master Groucho Marx put it, “A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast.”
Here’s a funny… How do you get a sweet 80-year-old lady to say the F word? Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell *BINGO*!
A study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing reported that patients who were told one-liners after surgery and before painful medication was administered perceived less pain when compared to patients who didn’t get a dose of humor as part of their therapy.
Another study, this one published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, found that young girls with burns who were shown cartoons during very painful hydrotherapy said they felt less pain than similar patients who were not exposed to cartoons during the same procedure.
Aside from distracting us from pain, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that can make us feel good. So make it a point each day, and especially each evening to laugh. Read something funny, watch something funny, think of something funny or talk to a funny person. Not only will this distract from pain, and reduce nighttime pain, but it will also help relieve stress and help get you a new focus on your life.
Reframe Your Mind
Reframing the way you think of your pain is easy and it shows you that your outlook on life has a lot to do with the life you lead. Pain is simply a form of communicating information within your body.
You may say to yourself, “My back hurts, I have weak knees, they stop me from doing things and this gets me down.” What you are doing is letting yourself know you have all of these problems. By focusing on the problems, you are actually reaffirming a negative cycle. Reframing helps break that cycle to bring on relief.
Step One is identifying the problem. Why is it happening (e.g., you have had a disc problem; you where sleeping in a new bed). When is it happening (e.g., while doing something that always sets it off). What is happening (e.g., what kind of pain is it?). And How is it happening (e.g., are making it worse? Is it fear-based pain where you are worried that it will get bad so you get in the mindset of being in pain?)
Step Two is separating the intention from the learned behavior. In other words, you slow down to really talk to your subconscious mind about a better way to deal with the problem at hand. You might say, “Okay, I know I am having pain, but it’s not an injury, I am not my pain, it just happened today because I have been sitting all day and not moving.” Thinking and acknowledging in this way keeps you focused on getting to step three.
Step Three is setting the positive way forward. You can even thank your body for the message of pain, as it focused you to work with a better intention of achieving your health and long-term life goals.
You can reframe in many ways, just look at the positive view of the situation and let your mind work for you!
Take Systemic Enzymes
Most physical pain is caused by inflammation. Enzymes are the main line of defense against inflammation by neutralizing the bio-chemicals of inflammation to levels where the creation, repair and regeneration of injured tissues can take place.
Reducing inflammation can have immediate impact on improved heart health, cancer prevention and recovery and Alzheimer’s prevention. It also helps speed up recovery from sprains, strains, fractures, bruises, contusions, surgery — and arthritis. And any of these areas certainly cause nighttime pain and poor sleep.
Enzymes also break down scar tissue and fibrosis. They cleanse the blood of excess fibrin that causes the blood to thicken, which sets you up for clots, which can cause heart attack or stroke. Enzymes also help take some of the strain off of the liver by keeping the blood clean and not allowing it to thicken beyond normal. Enzymes are adaptogenic and they work to restore the body’s balance. When the immune system is low and we become more susceptible to infections, the enzymes clean the blood to help fight off infection. And if the immune system is too ramped up, as with autoimmune diseases, the enzymes work to tone down the immune system and eat the antibodies that are attacking the healthy tissue.
Get Deep, Restorative Sleep
While it is a catch-22, deep sleep is necessary to relieve pain. Yes, nighttime pain will keep you awake, but finding ways to reduce it and over time getting that sleep will do wonders in the long run.
During sleep, the body works to repair itself. The liver purifies blood, the muscles repair, serotonin increases. Without ample sleep, these things do not happen at optimal levels.
In our natural circadian rhythm, or biological clock, sleep is set to take over during the evening hours. We are genetically programmed to get up and lie down with the sun. So it was the invention of artificial sources of light (candles and bulbs) that began our stressed-out drive for more working hours at the expense of much-needed rest.
What’s the big deal, you ask, if you sleep only a few hours per night? You can always drink coffee, take NoDoze caffeine pills, cat naps… life is good. Well, not really. Did you know that in clinical tests rats die within a few short weeks of sleep deprivation? And it’s not just rats at risk.
Chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, attention deficit disorder, chronic migraine and headache, body aches and pain, mental illness, depression and anxiety are all in part caused—or made worse–by lack of sleep. And no caffeine pill or taurine-laced energy drink can cure these dangerous side effects of our global-economy-size workloads.
Here are seven ways to help you fall asleep and repair.
- Do not consume ANY sugar or caffeine after 6:00pm.
- Stop working at least two hours before bedtime.
- Turn off the computer and television at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make sure your sleeping quarters are as dark and silent as possible. Studies have shown that those in darker and quieter spaces tend to sleep through the night more deeply than others.
- Establish a sleep/wake schedule, and stick to it.
- Make a set routine out of bedtime. Change into pajamas, brush your teeth, set out clothes for the morning, even jot down any last thoughts but promise yourself to revisit them tomorrow, then turn off the light… breathe deeply, relax, sleep tight.
- If a racing mind is nagging, slow your breath and focus on the sensation of air as it passes through your nose. This will derail those busy thoughts to help you drift off.
Keeping your immune system healthy year round is tricky, especially during the winter months when there are more colds and sicknesses being passed around. The strength of our immune system is what makes the difference between who gets sick and who doesn’t. “The one with the immune system functioning below base-line normal has an increased risk of getting sick,” says Woodson Merrell, MD, director of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against disease. It blocks foreign proteins from getting into your body. If a few happen to sneak by your biological defense, not to worry…with a powerful “search and destroy” task force, your body deploys a host of additional immune cell forces designed to hunt down these unwanted invaders and ultimately works to destroy them. Getting regular massage aids in keeping the immune system healthy.
Studies show that a lack of nurturing and support will have a negative impact on an individuals chemical environment, opening them more to illness as well as tying into the whole emotional state of a person. Jon Barron is the resident health expert for the “Healthy Trends” radio show in LA and recently talked about the benefits of massage on the immune system. A study was conducted in 2011, to determine what health benefits (if any), would someone have by getting a massage. Blood work was taken on individuals before and after a forty-five minute Swedish massage. The findings revealed that massages do indeed aid in immunity health! After the Swedish massage, the number of white blood cells in individuals increased. An increase in white blood cells puts more ‘fighters’ in our system, which keeps us in good health by fighting infections and viruses. There were lowered inflammation levels and decreased stress hormone (cortisol) levels. In addition, aggression levels were lowered, which in turn lowered blood pressure levels. Based on these studies, there was conclusive evidence that massages keep your immune system healthy.
For athletes, a heavy training regiment can also increase susceptibility to illnesses. There is evidence that following heavy exercise, both L-glutamine (an amino acid manufactured by the body) and the immune system take a dip. Evidence also suggests the healing and restorative effects of massage can play a key role in counteracting that dip by providing support through lymph movement to improved immune function. The athlete has to stay healthy in order to continue training. With massage, they can train harder because they are able to recover faster.
The most important thing you can do for your immune system is to achieve lifestyle balance and adopt the fundamentals of healthy living. This will give your immune system what it needs to function at optimal capacity. Reducing stress levels is key and massage has been shown to do this time and time again. Schedule your visit today with one our massage specialists at Hands on Health Massages in Asheville, NC.
If you’ve ever had a good massage after a hard run, you know it can work like magic to relieve post-workout pain. Massage flushes lactic acid and waste (burned fat) that your body produces from overloaded muscles, reduces soreness and stiffness, and generally speeds recovery. Many top competitive runners incorporate massage as a regular part of their training program to help prepare for and recover from strenuous workouts and to enhance overall performance. Regular massage keeps muscles free of knots and hypercontracted bands, which, if ignored, could lead to injury. Think of it this way: Massage acts like a garage man, it carries the junk away. Leave the junk sit in your tissue and starts to stink fast, in other words, YOU STAY SORE LONGER THEN NEEDED.
Massage improves blood circulation because the pressure applied during massage pushes blood to congested areas. When this pressure is released, it allows fresh blood to flow in. In addition, the squeezing and pulling during a massage, helps in elimination of lactic acid that has been built up in the muscles.
When should an athlete get a massage?
1. Between hard workouts, as a regular part of the training schedule. Every runner knows that quick recovery from hard workouts is essential for consistent, uninterrupted training. If you’ve pushed hard and wind up with overloaded, sore, stiff, and contracted muscles, massage may be just what you need to keep you on track and on your training schedule
2.Immediately after a race. Those runners on the tables after races are speeding their recovery after pushing to the limit. Massage assists the muscles in getting rid of lactic acid build- up and reduces soreness that can result from overload.
A study by Monedero and Donne showed while active recovery proved best in removing lactic acid, a combined approach (active recovery and massage) did increase recovery rate during short intervals between maximal efforts and was most efficient for maintaining maximal performance time in subsequent performance.
Regardless of whether your activity is running, cycling, horse back riding, skiing, tennis, rock climbing, hiking, soccer, snowboarding, or swimming, a massage can help you perform better and reduce your risk of injury. Let Hands on Health Massage Therapy Center aid in your recovery by getting lactic acid flashes with regular massages. It’s easy to book an appointment straight through our Facebook page.
1. Breathe: A massage therapist trained in deep tissue massage will be able to locate your pressure points quickly, and will target those points using their hands or elbows. When you’re massage therapist begins working out your pressure points or the muscles containing your pressure points, you’re likely to experience a heightened sense of discomfort in that area. A key to eliminating your pressure points is to practice deep breathing techniques.
#2 Drink plenty of water: If you’re dehydrated before or during your appointment, you’re healing experience will be suboptimal, as your pressure points either will not release or they’ll release extremely slowly.
#3 Communicate: Because deep tissue massage and pressure point work can occasionally be uncomfortable, it’s important that you communicate clearly with your massage therapist during your deep tissue massage sessions, so that they knows when they are using too much pressure and needs to back off. Communicating your level of comfort and acceptance with the procedures being performed helps the therapist understand your pain threshold, and helps them know the best ways to treat your pressure points. You should also let your therapist know when the force being applied to your pressure points is not sufficient. Some pressure points are located in muscles deep under the surface of your skin and light, superficial pressure will not be enough to reduce them effectively. Knowing what you’re body needs comes with experience, and a person who undergoes regular massage therapy will know their problem areas and their pressure tolerance levels.
Learn the Pressure Points
Pressure Point 3: The third back massage pressure point is found on both sides of the spine, in line with the elbow of your hand. Apply an inch of pressure for about thirty seconds.
Pressure Point 4: The fourth back massage pressure point is found on the muscles, below the line of the pelvis. Pressing this point may give rise to a little tingling in the leg, as the feeling would be a combination of pleasure and pain.
Pressure Point 5: This one is found below the arm pits, on the sides of the muscles, that run from the arm pits to the back.
Pressure Point 6: You will be able to find this pressure point right at the back of both the shoulders.
Have you ever had a nagging pain on your rear end?
You are not alone…piriformis syndrome is a common complaint amongst sufferers that seek out massage therapy care. The pain is typically deep in the hip and buttocks area but can be anywhere from the lower back to the thigh. Stiffness, weakness and movement restriction are often reported as well as tingling and numbness in the legs. So what causes this pain in your butt?
The most common causes are sitting for long periods of time with your hips flexed, which is typical for individuals that spend most of the day working at a desk. Piriformis Syndrome is also common in athletes. It is most often an overuse injury found in cyclists, rowers and runners. Runners experience piriformis syndrome oftentimes with overpronation of the foot. When a foot overpronates it causes the knee to turn medially, causing the piriformis to activate to prevent over-rotating the knee. This causes the piriformis to become overused and therefore tight, eventually leading to piriformis syndrome. Other causes for piriformis syndrome include stiffness, or hypomobility of the sacroiliac joints, which can actually change the way that you walk and cause some lower back pain as well.
Where is the piriformis muscle?
The piriformis is a muscle that travels behind the hip joint. The piriformis muscle is small compared to other muscles around the hip and thigh, and it aids in external rotation (turning out) of the hip joint. The piriformis muscle and its tendon have a close relationship to the sciatic nerve–the largest nerve in the body–which supplies the lower extremities with motor and sensory function. The piriformis tendon and sciatic nerve cross each other behind the hip joint, in the deep buttock.
What are preventative measures and treatments for Piriformis Syndrome?
If your work requires to sit for extended periods of time throughout the day or if you are an avid athlete that is susceptible to this injury there are several preventative measures you can take to lower your risk of developing piriformis syndrome. An exercise regimen targeting the gluteus medius and hip abductor muscle groups can alleviate symptoms of piriformis syndrome within days. Stretching exercises will target the piriformis, but may also include the hamstrings and hip muscles, in order to adequately reduce pain and increase range of motion. Patients with piriformis syndrome may also find relief from ice and heat. Ice can be helpful when the pain starts, or immediately after an activity that causes pain. This may be simply an ice pack, or ice massage. Deep tissue massage into the hip releases the piriformis muscle to relieve symptoms that mimic sciatic like pain.
Some examples of stretching exercises that Hands on Health Asheville Massage Therapy Center recommends to target the piriformis muscle:
Sit with one leg straight out in front. Hold onto the ankle of your other leg and pull it directly towards your chest.
Lie face down and bend one leg under your stomach, then lean towards the ground.