I’ve had a setback. Gotta say that I’m not happy about it.
My qigong practice was going so well. The weight lifting with my son was fun. And the myofascial release on my hips looked to be heading me toward the ability to take long walks. I was thrilled!
And then it all fell apart.
My middle back seized up. Badly.
The pain was severe enough to keep me in bed for two days. Now it has eased some, but not much more than will allow me to move around the house very carefully.
The day after my back seized, my right foot also went wrong. I’m limping painfully when I walk from room to room.
I think I know what happened.
Everything in the body is connected. When you change the alignment of one section, the parts upstram and downstream from that section have to adjust.
My hips have been misaligned for a very long time—years, probably decades. Which means that my middle back, directly upstream from the hips, was adjusted and acclimated to those misaligned hips.
When I started doing myofascial release on my hips, it began to change their internal alignment. That change really eased the pain in my hips. Which meant I chased the pain relief aggressively. I spent longer intervals on the Miracle Balls. One day I did two sessions (one morning, one afternoon) of myofascial release.
And the next day, my middle back seized up. It just was not ready to make the changes that it would need in order to work smoothly with my realigned hips.
(I think it is the latissimus dorsi—right and left—and the erector spinae that are the source of the trouble. You can see the latissimus dorsi in red in the first image of this post. The erector spinae are displayed in the second image at right.)
I’m less clear on why my foot deteriorated so suddenly, but I figure it has to be related. Perhaps the leg muscles downstream of the hips adjusted to the changes in a way that stressed my foot. Perhaps the way I’m walking with the seized-up back muscles puts undue stress on the foot.
Certainly I’ve had foot trouble for decades. It’s just that it had been greatly improved during the last 3 years.
Well, I’m finding that standing in the qigong stance (just standing) helps those seized middle back muscles release a little. So I’m doing that, and also trying to move gently around the house some.
I’ve also returned to doing some myofascial release, especially on my foot directly.
When my back recovers—when the pain finally ebbs—I will return to weight lifting and perhaps three reps on the qigong Eight Brocades. And then I will move forward much more gently.
Never more than one session of myofascial release in a day. Stay at 3 reps on the qigong. (I had reached 5 reps when my back and body failed.) And if I am able to start taking walks, I will keep them very short for many weeks.
I know the osteopath I’ve seen for my joint problems was always very conservative in the adjustments he did on my foot and back—never too much at one time. Clearly I need to follow that guideline!
Send healing thoughts my way, if you feel so inclined. My aching body could use some help!
Last Friday, I talked about back pain and using myofascial release for relief. I also promised to share this week what I was doing to relieve the hip pain that had flared up anew in response to my at-home exercise program.
This post is the promised hip-pain post.
It builds on last week’s post, so if you missed that one, go read it first. I’ll wait! 😀
So…hip pain. It can occur in a lot of different spots around the hip joint. When I was 16 or so, I pulled something in the front of my left hip joint when straightening up from sitting in the car. For nearly two decades after that incident, if I straightened incautiously, I pulled it again. Each time I pulled it, it grew more susceptible to pulling the next time. The problem spread to the right hip. And both sides began to hurt more and more.
I eventually solved the problem by doing leg lifts religiously. Three times a week, without fail, I would lie on my back and lift the left leg 10 times. Then I did the right leg. Three sets of 10 repetitions for each leg.
It worked! My pain diminished, and re-pulling the muscle happened less and less often.
But it is not front-of-the-hip pain that is bothering me now. Nope. The pain is at the back and deep in the joint.
Let’s take a look at the muscles on the back of the hip, since that’s important both to understanding what is happening, and how to fix it.
The biggest muscle, and the one that gives the derriere a lot of its shape, is the gluteus maximus. This is the muscle that should be doing most of the work when you straighten from sitting to standing. I suspect that mine has been shuffling off some of its work to other muscles that are not meant for it, and that is where my pain is coming from.
(We’re looking at the hips from the back in the images at right.)
Beneath the gluteus maximus is the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius controls rotation of the hip, allowing you to turn your leg inward (pigeon toes) and outward (ballet first position), as well as allowing you to lift your leg to the back and side. It also holds the hips stable when you stand on one leg.
Beneath the gluteus medius is the gluteus minimus. The gluteus minimus helps the gluteus medius do its jobs of hip rotation and keeping the hips stable when you are standing on one leg. Now that I’m a week into working on the pain in my hips, I suspect that some of my discomfort is coming from the gluteus minimus.
But the majority of my pain seems to stem from a cluster of much smaller muscles underneath the gluteal muscles.
The prime villain is the piriformis muscle.
The piriformis muscle attaches at the front of the sacrum (the base of the spine), and runs sideways at a slant to wrap around the outside of the greater trochanter, the knob at the top of the femur (thigh bone).
At the start of the week, the path of pain mapped quite perfectly along both my right and left piriformis muscles.
So that is where I placed my Miracle Ball. One side at a time, starting at the spot where the piriformis emerges from the sacrum, I lay on the ball, letting it rest at each aching spot along the piriformis for 2 or 3 minutes until I reached the spot where the muscle wrapped around the trochanter.
The relief was amazing. It had that “hurt good” sensation while I lay on the ball. And afterward, my hips felt both less tense and stronger.
I found that changing the angle and rotation of my body as I lay upon the Miracle Ball was helpful for digging into different spots where the fascia was restricted. Sometimes it was quite a balancing act! I let my intuition guide me.
Now that I’ve been doing this process for a week (as I type this), I’m finding that the piriformis muscles are calming down. The right piriformis is still tight right at its center, in the “belly” of the muscle and at the end where it attaches to the trochanter. So that is where I focus my efforts.
The left piriformis is problematic largely where it attaches to its trochanter.
But I can now feel that the three muscles beneath the piriformis are painful (on both sides), both in the belly of each muscle and where they attach to the trochanter.
These three muscles are: the superior gemellus, the obturator internus, and the inferior gemellus.
Additionally, the spot at the end of the gluteus minimus where it attaches to the trochanter is painful.
So when my Miracle Ball reaches the outer end of the piriformis, I walk the ball in a semi-circle around the top of the trochanter.
Here’s a video that gave me some ideas for how to position myself on the ball. Notice how the gentleman is balanced on one hip with the opposite hip angled into the air. Once the ball moves away from the spine, the other hip has to rise so that you stay balanced.
Here’s another that gave me ideas for where the hotspots are located, and how to move the legs while on the ball.
The patient is passive and lying on her front. But seeing how the therapist performed the various releases helped me figure out variants for myself. (The release work starts at minute 10.)
The relief is incredible. I can feel the inflammation going down, and I have great hope that not only will the pain resolve completely, but that I’ll eventually be able to walk for exercise again.
I love walking. But every time in the last few years that I’ve tried taking the long walks I adore, this deep hip pain has flared up. Now that I’m using myofascial release on the area, I think I may arrive at a long-term resolution of the problem. Fingers crossed!
I suspect there may be two more pieces of the puzzle, however.
1) Myofascial release of the quadriceps.
2) Mobilizing the gluteus maximus to do its job.
But first things first. Right now I’m focusing on myofascial release of the hips. Wish me luck!
I’ll continue to blog about this particular adventure as it unfolds, but it may be a while before I get to the experiences beyond the piriformis and company.
Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical person in any way. I’m just sharing my journey with the idea that it may point you toward some good questions, if you too suffer from hip pain. Good questions can lead to good answers; coming up with the right question is often the hardest part of solving a problem, in my experience. Just remember that what worked for me may not work for you. Seek out the right experts for help, if you need treatment!
For most of my life I’ve dealt with back pain—upper and lower.
Over the years, I’ve discovered ways to lessen the pain: yoga, strengthening specific core muscles, putting a latex topper on my mattress, etc. All of these, especially in concert, helped a great deal. But when my sister-in-law shared her positive experience with The Miracle Ball Method by Elaine Petrone, I listened.
And I put the Miracle Ball Deluxe Kit on my wish list for Christmas 2017.
My dear father choose to give me the kit as one of his gifts, and I’ve been using it ever since.
I’ve been delighted with the results. I rarely experience low back pain these days. And the doctor who I see for my joint issues said that the scoliosis of my lower spine (sideways curvature) was entirely gone!
My upper back continues to challenge me, but it is much better than it used to be. And some extra time on my Miracle Balls always resolves the worst of the pain.
I learned recently that the Miracle Ball Method is really a form of myofascial release. I’d been using the method because it worked, without really worrying about why it worked. But my new qigong practice began creating pain in my hips. In pursuit of a solution for that, I encountered…a bunch of new information.
What is myofascial release?
John F. Barnes (at myofascialrelease.com) describes it as “a hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the fascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.”
And what is the fascia?
A band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.
A video from the Life 360 Summit gives an excellent view of what the fascia looks like and how fascia can cause serious pain and range-of-motion problems when the fascia is tight or restricted.
Minute 6 is when Fascia-man first arrives. And 15 seconds later we get a good close-up of him, if you want to skip ahead.
The way the Miracle Balls work is that you lie on them, and your own body weight applies the sustained pressure that releases the fascial restrictions. The more you are able to relax, the better they work.
In the diagram at right, you can see how I “walk” a single ball up my spine from the tail bone. At each location, I pause the ball for 2 or 3 minutes, until I feel the restriction release.
Across the shoulders, I use the balls in a pair, one placed on each side of the spine.
The whole process does take roughly 40 minutes, but it is so worth it to be pain-free. 😀
The kit I received included the Miracle Balls themselves, a how-to book, a how-to CD (which I haven’t used), a hand pump, and a plastic nozzle for the hand pump. The plastic nozzle did not work for filling the balls, but we had a steel needle for a bicycle pump that fit the hand pump perfectly.
My son tried my Miracle Balls this week after his weight workout and liked them so well that he requested some of his own. I purchased him a smaller kit that included only the balls and the how-to book. (We don’t need 2 hand pumps in the house—he can use mine.)
I meant to tell you all about my adventure with Miracle Balls after I’d used them for a few months. I figured I’d test them well before reporting back. The problem with that plan is that I tend to be most excited when something is new. That’s when I shout about it from the rooftops. Once several months pass…it’s old hat.
I kept saying, “Next week I’ll blog about it.”
But now that I’m using my Miracle Balls on hip pain, they are new and fresh again, so here I am shouting. 😉
So what about my hip pain, which set off this new learning odyssey? I’ll tell you about it—and how I’m fixing it—next week!
Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical person in any way. I’m just sharing my journey with the idea that it may point you toward some good questions, if you too suffer from back pain. Good questions can lead to good answers; coming up with the right question is often the hardest part of solving a problem, in my experience. Just remember that what worked for me may not work for you. Seek out the right experts for help, if you need treatment!