Updated: May 25, 2020
If there is one muscle singled out more than any others in the hip area it's the piriformis. This poor little dude gets blamed for a hell of a lot.
Which would be fine if he was the one causing all the problems but more often than not its the poor piriformis, much like the stressed high school teacher, thats trying to hold it all together.
Theres around twenty five different muscles in and around the hips and for them to operate smoothly they all need to be in sync.
More importantly they all need to be doing their own fair share of the work. You see its all interconnected and if one muscle is slacking the others will have to pick up the slack.
Cue our plucky piriformis.
The poor thing might be the muscle causing you the pain and it might be the sight of the pain BUT it might not be the reason for the pain.
Theres only so much extra work it can do as well as its own before it needs to ask for help from its manager.
Guess who's the manager?
Guess how it gets your attention?
You see pain is an action signal. It's there to draw your attention to something that needs addressed. One muscle can't be expected to do the work of every other muscle in the hip.
The piriformis works well when its doing the job of the piriformis. If you ask it to do extra work it can get inflamed and put pressure on the sciatic nerve for example.
Remember the body is so good at compensating you usually don't even know its doing it. Well, that is until you break.
The key to getting out of pain is by making the whole hip area work together in harmony, so you don't need to sit in pigeon all day or do banded clams before bed. Yo need to teach the muscles how to work as and interconnected machine.
Thats great I hear you say but i'm in pain right now and what can i do about it?
Well quite a bit actually.
You can take ten minutes and take your hip through all the directions it was designed to move in.
Flexion, extension, internal and external rotation. If you're in pain i bet at least one of those movements will be difficult.
Classic sign of certain muscles trying to get out of their fair share of the work. Skipping class and leaving teacher piriformis to hold it all together if you will.
You need to make sure you are treating the actual cause of the pain not just the symptoms, so that means no more focusing on certain muscles.
One of the best exercises for moving the hips in their full range of motion with control is a CAR ( controlled articular rotation ). You can do them standing or laying. Both versions are below.
CAR's are a focus of the Mobility Reset program as they teach the body how to move as one unit and with control.
A key point to getting out of pain is building strength. You need to own the ranges you have by building stability and strength in the movements.
A great exercise for doing this focuses on the internal and external rotation strength in the hips. For that we can use the 90/90 deep squat.
90/90 deep squat
Doing these exercises a few times a day will really help how your hip is functioning overall. And that is the path out of pain.
The key, as with the whole body is just to move how the hips want to move. Most people will instinctively rest their hip pain but that could cause the muscles that aren't working to get even weaker, causing more pain.
The more effort you put in to building the strength your hips need, the quicker you will noticing yourself moving without that familiar twinge of sharp pain.