If you get a massage from me, it’s likely that I will touch your butt*.
If you are experiencing lower back pain, hip pain, or difficulty walking, one of the issues I find, can be in your behind. What we call our butt is made up of many muscles, the largest of which is the gluteus maximus (maximus meaning the biggest) but it’s not the only one. There’s also gluteus medius and minimus and they all attach to different places in the hip/pelvic/sacrum area.
Then there’s the “deep six” that are responsible for the rotation of your leg as well as a key player in balance. One of those lateral rotators is a muscle named the Piriformis, or as I like to call it, “the little fucker”. Our sciatic nerve runs under our piriformis, or on some people it runs through it. When the muscle is tight or if it spasms, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain or weakness in your leg. Sometimes when people think they have sciatica, they actually have Piriformis Syndrome, which can be helped greatly by massage and self-myofascial release.
Here is an image of the side view – showing all the lateral rotator muscles and the sciatic nerve.
And here’s a back view of the glutes and where and how they each attach. You’re looking at the sacrum, hip/pelvis and thigh bones.
So what does massage do? In massage, I am feeling for any adhesions or tightness in the muscles along the sacrum, around the greater trochanter, which is the part of the femur aka the thigh bone that sticks out, and I work on the piriformis muscle as well.
I gently apply pressure to stretch the muscle and the connective tissue around it. On many clients I will also use massage cups to help lift the connective tissue, creating a stretch and allowing for re-hydration of the fascia and tissues. When working with clients with larger bodies, I find that that we (myself included) have areas of pain and discomfort due to compression of the connective tissue along muscle attachments and origins. When I work on fat bodies, I spend time lifting the flesh up and away from the bone and making space with my hands, massage cups and other myofascial tools, that helps relieve pain and loosens fascia which helps for freer movement.
When I encounter a client with a tight piriformis muscle, I usually suggest self-myofascial release homework. It’s easy to work on loosening this muscle at home as an adjunct to massage. It’s as simple as laying on a tennis or lacrosse ball. This activity is only suggested if you can reach under yourself to move the ball or if you have a helper who can assist. (And if you have any kind of diagnosed issues with your sacrum or spine, please consult your doctor or chiropractor before attempting this.)
Lay down on a firm surface. I use my bed since it’s not too soft, and tuck a tennis ball in the fleshy part of my butt. You don’t want to lay it on the bone. Move it to the side of the sacrum (the middle triangular shaped bone in your lower back/butt area). When you find a tender spot, just rest there and let the tissue melt around the ball. After a few minutes, move the ball to a new spot. Then switch sides. I leave a tennis ball on my bed and work on this before I go to sleep and if I’m working something out, I’ll do it again when I wake up. Here’s a short video of this process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZqb2k5RrEc
It’s easy to do this on your own. Repetition and consistency helps. You have a lot of power in your hands to change the way you feel. Massage, stretching, and self-myofascial release are wonderful tools for pain relief and increased mobility.
Questions? Please post them here or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to book an appointment with me, please visit my website at http://debmalkin.com/bookmassage
*it is up to you whether your glutes are worked on clothed or unclothed. It’s always an option to work over the sheet.