by Sarah Albrecht
Several months ago I noticed some hip pain that felt like I’d “strained, not trained” when exercising. The pain worsened a bit over time, enough to require some aspirin every afternoon. After a couple of months, I decided this wasn’t going away on its own and went to the doctor. He also figured something was up but didn’t know what, so he sent me to my first visit with a physical therapist. After an evaluation, she concluded that my piriformis muscle, which runs from inside the pelvis and wraps around the hip, had somehow become inflamed. Inflamed piriformis muscles typically squeeze the sciatic nerve, causing more pain.
The therapist assigned a series of stretches and exercises to relax and strengthen the muscle. They felt good and the pain began incrementally decreasing. After several visits with several therapists, I saw the original therapist again. She assigned a new exercise regimen, then added in a side note: “Oh, and you should be sitting and standing with your weight even. No standing with your weight shifted to one side.”
It seemed intuitive and I felt silly that I hadn’t thought to do that myself. I went home, and over the course of the day I noticed how many times I stood with my weight unevenly distributed and faithfully corrected my posture. By the end of the same day the minute shift in my posture had helped my hip feel dramatically better. I couldn’t believe it.
I thought how, in life, targeting areas where I am “hurting” with specific “exercises” may help, but the exercises become much more effective if I am balanced as a whole and standing tall. And even tiny changes in balance can make a big difference.
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