|Image from Sports and Spine Rehab|
There is a muscle that runs kind of sideways and crossways across our hips that helps control the swing and general action of our hips. And apparently if you aggravate it, it can cause all kinds of discomfort. To make matters worse, it runs very close to the sciatic nerve and can make that very unhappy too, leading to a lot of general unhappiness all the way around.
I didn't even know what it was but the effects of "Piriformis Syndrome" started bugging me over two years ago (2013). I noticed it mostly when driving - my right butt/hip would ache. If I had to drive a long distance I would become very uncomfortable and I'd have to stop regularly to stretch. It didn't bother me during my MCM marathon training, but it was there. Then, about a year later it started to affect my sciatic nerve, and I just thought it was a leg issue. I learned a few stretches that helped, and for the most part tried to ignore it.
Late this summer, August of 2015, along with an ankle issue, my pain-in-the-butt thing got worse - really uncomfortably so. It was a sharp, focused pain deep in my butt cheek whenever I tried to do speed work. And I still didn't know what it was. It was only by accident that I finally stumbled on what my issue was by reading a lot of posts on the runners.com forum.
That started the process of getting myself rehabilitated and repaired (or is it repaired and rehabilitated?). And it's a long process before full happiness ensues...
I've learned that Piriformis Syndrome can be brought about by either too much sitting or too much running (on hard surfaces). Well, I don't sit very much, and while I run a lot, I don't think that I qualify for "running too much". So what else? It turns out that weak glutes and/or ankle issues can also contribute to Piriformis Syndrome - and while I didn't think that I had weak glutes, it is certainly a possibility. And I certainly have ankle issues (seems to be a recurring issue for me).
So with that in mind, I've begun doing exercises to strengthen my glutes and have some new orthotics for my feet. And I'm experiencing positive results. Lots of lunges. Lots of deep knee bends. I also learned about the "Myrtl Routine", basically a series of exercises that focus on your hips. The Myrtl Routine runs through clams, lateral leg raises, donkey kicks, and so on. Do an internet search for it. Good stuff.
With regards to running, I had to cut down my miles substantially, partly because it hurt, but also because I did not want to cause further damage. My initial focus was two-fold: relieve the discomfort, and to strengthen my glutes and legs.
My morning routine involves a lot of easy stretching, all of them are yoga positions that I've been taught - I'd list the names, but I haven't got a clue. I know that one is called "Pigeon"...? Deep knee bends, some on toes, some flat footed. More lunges. Donkey kicks and what I call "Kraut walking" (high steps). I also run through a Myrtl Routine.
Unfortunately, as I get older, I loose endurance quickly, so I wind up having to re-build my miles, starting with 2 and 3 mile runs for a while before graduating to 4 & 5 and ultimately 10 and 15 miles. I also lost any element of speed (not that I had a lot...). With a faster pace comes longer strides, which means that I'm stretching out my hamstring, and by connection, the piriformis muscle. I'm having to re-train those muscles to accept the stretch and the muscle turnover tempo.
At this stage, I am still in the 3 mile run stage, and I'm wanting to feel confident and strong before running further and faster. This is running season in FL and the weather is awesome. It is a shame to not be able to take advantage of it! But I I want to run when I'm 88, I better take care of my body while I'm 58.