Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Syndrome

I'm not actually referring to the villain in Disney's The Incredibles- though he was a pretty big pain in the butt and interestingly enough, what I'm referring to is, literally, a big pain in the butt.

I posted recently about the hip pain I had on the last hike that I went on and how I was thinking seriously that it might actually end all my training and but an end to my plans to go on a back packing trip. 

I spent two nights not being able to sleep from the pain before finally breaking down and calling the doctor.  So I went, and he poked and prodded and moved my legs this way and that and determined that there was no sign of a bone issue or a joint issue or a ligament/tendon issue.  It seemed I had a silver dollar sized area in the muscle of my butt that was causing the problem.  I was given a prescription of an anti-inflammatory and told to go  try some physical therapy.  While I was glad it didn't seem to be a serious physical problem, I still really didn't know what was wrong and if it would actually be something that would be able to be completely fixed. 

Then just the other day while I was hard at work browsing on Pinterest, I came across something an acquaintance had pinned.  It was something called Piriformis Syndrome, and the area the diagram showed seemed to be in the same area as my pain.  So I checked it out.  The more I read, the more I became convinced that this was finally the answer.
The piriformis muscle is a flat band-like muscle in the butt area behind the gluteus maximus that is used to stabilized the hip joint and rotate the thigh muscle.  So it's used for most major things like walking or hiking.  The sciatic nerve runs through or next to the piriformis muscle and down the leg.  This is the nerve that is involved in that lovely thing called sciatica.  Piriformis Syndrome is actually an uncommon neuromuscular disorder that is caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed by the piriformis.  Inflammation of the piriformis can be caused by a fall or movements that repeatedly stress the muscle.
I actually fell on my hip about a year ago while checking out photo ops for my wedding.  At the time it wasn't that big of a deal.  My butt/hip area was a little sore, but there was no real lasting effect.  Every now and then if I did a lot of standing or walking my hip would ache, but nothing was a problem until recently when I started training for the hike. However, that little fall seems to have been the trigger with the issues that are currently going on.
I had my first physical therapy appointment and I received confirmation that I was probably right about the piriformis problem.  The symptoms I was dealing with- pain going up stairs and on inclines, pain after sitting long hours, pain when working hip abductors and a tingly/nervey feeling in the spot on my hip/butt.  Luckily there are stretches that can help and so I've begun my 3 times a week PT schedule to reach my goal of being able to hike with a 30 pound pack (the physical therapist said I had the most specific goal anyone has ever written down). And as a bonus, the therapist is also going to work on strengthening my non existent core muscles.
So there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it sounds like I'll be able to manage this trip after all.  And as for that hike where I fell and started this whole problem, it was definitely worth it.  On our wedding day, my husband and I hiked up to Cascade Falls in Patapsco Valley State Park for a photo op (we were married at the Park, it was awesome).  And yes, I hiked up to the falls in a wedding dress- that's just how crazy bad ass I am.

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