Piriformis Syndrome (maybe?) & My A.R.T. Experience

While the doctor diagnosed me with Piriformis Syndrome, I’m still not sure that’s exactly what I was experiencing, but I do think a nerve was irritated by a muscle and/or bone in my hip. 

Whatever it is or was, I don’t want to take any chances being one week out from my half ironman, so I’ve had LOTS of rest and tried A.R.T. (Active Release Technique) with a sports doctor/chiropractor.  From wikipedia: A.R.T is a soft tissue system/movement-based massage technique developed and patented by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP. It is used to treat problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.  While I know the therapy may not be a long-term fix, I think the sessions have been beneficial, or at least make me feel better.  I’ll take the placebo affect any day – whatever works!!  I have 2 more A.R.T. sessions next week, but I’m very optimistic and feeling much better.  The doctor even said “I think you’ll be alright”.

To explain my A.R.T. experience: I met the doctor and told him my issue and diagnosis, and he was also a little perplexed as it didn’t sound like a straightforward Piriformis Syndrome case, but decided to work my muscles anyway.  They warmed up my glute/hip muscles up with a combination of electric pulses and a heating pad for ten minutes.  Then an assistant moved my legs in various positions while the doctor pinpointed my aggravated muscles with his thumb and pressed really hard!  Oh yes, I was in pain!!  Hurt, but hurt-so-good, make-my-injury-go-away type pain!  After the intense twisting and pinpointing, the doctor finished with leg stretches on both sides. 

The A.R.T. made me a little sore, but I’m feeling good with no dull aches.  I’m swimming without pain and I went on a five mile run this morning – yay, it feels SO good to finally be working out again!  I can’t even tell you how happy I was.  Four days of being a couch potato felt very lethargic.  My physical health and mental health are so intertwined, it’s not even funny.   Was A.R.T. helpful?  I’m not sure; David thinks resting was my biggest help, and he might be right.  Plus, I don’t know if the pain will come back yet; only time & working out will tell.  Either way, I don’t think the A.R.T. was a bad idea and it made me feel like I was proactively taking care of the issue.  

My goal for the next few weeks is to take everything slowly (especially the race), then work from the bottom up with physical therapy, biomechanical analysis, etc. to get strengthen & prevent any further injury.

I’ve also made an effort to take about any other piece of advice I’ve read {on the internet, so taken with a grain of salt}:  Stretching when warm, icing, standing more at work, ibuprofen, positive thinking & imagery, and even eating anti-inflammatory foods like salmon and walnuts.  These may or may not do anything, but I’m game for trying it all!  Plus the guy at the fish market at Whole Foods gave me  a huge piece of salmon for a discount Winking smile 


I’ll do a separate post about my thoughts on sports injuries & what I’m doing moving forward, but for now I’ll just have to take things one step at a time.  For 70.3 miles that is Smile  Anyone else out there have hip/leg pain caused by a nerve issue or Piriformis Syndrome?  How do you deal with it or how did you overcome it?

4 thoughts on “Piriformis Syndrome (maybe?) & My A.R.T. Experience

  1. I had a piriformis injury back in April – in my case, the layman’s term was “squash butt”. I was squatting wrong when playing squash. Every time I walk, it would hurt as if I broke my hip bone. It took a while for me to finally believe it was a tight muscle injury. Went to physio, bought a roller (rumbler roller) & diligently rolled out my glutes & IT band. Healed after a month or so. Hang in there, injuries are tough (& you have the right to complain)!! I get real moody without my workouts.

  2. Hi Britt,
    Piriformis issues are literally a pain in the butt – I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, especially right before your race. I dealt with the same thing at the beginning of year from like January to April. I used to be terrible about stretching and rolling – now I do it diligently. Also, I do a lot of hip strenghtening exercises – bridges, clams, leg lifts, etc. For me it was a lot worse when I was just running and not cross training. I think the swimming and biking actually helped the issue. I also make a point to sit less at work and am constantly rolling on the tennis ball (sitting all day at work really aggravated my hips). I think you are on the right track! Good luck this weekend! I tihnk the swim/bike beforehand may actually loosen your piriformis up some so it doesn’t irritate you on the run.

  3. Thanks so much for all the good advice! I’m working on using my sit/stand desk at work a lot more and will try out the tennis ball too. I’m still not sure if the thing is straightforward piriformis since the side of my hip gets really tight (vs. the butt), but either way, I’m planning to start lots of hip strengthening exercises after the HIM. I’ll just add on to my core routine 🙂

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