Running is much more than something I do. In more than 30 years, it has become part of who I am. It is one of the most enjoyable, essential parts of my life. But lately, it's not been so much fun. The reason is something we can pretty much all relate to, but, in my stubborn male personality, I've simply ignored it, hoping it would go away.
I'm talking about injuries. We all deal with aches and pains pretty regularly when we run. But there is a difference between the run-of-the-mill sore muscles, and a recurring pain. Since at least January, that's what I've been dealing with. That means I've trained for an run a marathon as well as a number of other races since the pain set in. I've run fairly well, but the times could have been better without the injury. At first I thought it was a product of the high mileage I was putting in before the Boston marathon. But since cutting back after that race, it's gotten no better.
There's really no other term for it. It is a pain in the butt. And in my case, the pain extends down my hamstring to the IT band at my knee. It was a mystery to me. It hurts the most during my runs, and calms down a little other times. I tried ice. I tried ibuprofin. Stretching my hamstring. Nothing worked. It's something I've never dealt with, or even heard of in all my years of running.
Then, coincidently, I ran accross an article in the current issue of Runner's World, written by Benjamin Cheever, that describes the exact symptoms I've been dealing with. It seems he had the same problem, and went through numerous trials and specialists to get to the bottom of it.
Now my ailment even has a name! Piriformis syndrome. Apparently, it is not disabling. It is a muscle that's not likely to tear or break or anything. But it does tend to irritate the sciatic nerve, which runs the length of your back down your legs. It causes major back pain for a lot of people. I have managed to avoid that, but the pain in my right leg is bad enough.
Here is a link to the story in Runner's World. It is titled 'The Big Hurt': http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-243-297--13237-0,00.html
A little research on the web yielded numerous articles about Piriformis syndrome, as well as several stretches that target the specific muscle. Stretching alone makes a big difference. Other treatments, (which I have not tried) are also available. But the two stretches below are my favorites. They come from the website I have provided a link to below as well.
It's only been a week, and my stretching has been spotty. But I have noticed a difference. Most importantly, I know what it is I'm dealing with, and how to solve it.
I've been blessed to have been relatively injury free over all my years of running. Other than a nasty bout with plantar faciitis a few years ago, I've never had an injury that forced me to stop running for any length of time. That's as much luck as anything else. And it was certainly lucky that I ran accross the Runner's World story when I did.
Now I have hope that I can soon enjoy injury-free running again soon. See you on the roads....