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Kasper

Piriformis, stretching and back pain

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Hi

I'm new to this forum so I'm going to start by giving a short summary of who I am and what I do:)

24 year old Norwegian master student in Engineering

Background:

-Did powerlifting type training for about 2 years

-Got involved in crossfit for 0.5-1year

-Is now focusing on gymnastics (doing the foundation series of gymnasticbodies, so I'm one of the guys looking forward to you pancake-stretch program) twice a week, olympic style squatting three times a week and a general fooling around day once a week where I do what I feel like (mostly gymnastics, and recently some boulderign). All heavily influenced by the works of Ido Portal

Back pain story:

-Last spring/summer - Mild back pain acting up from time to time - Immediately solved by stretching the hip flexors

-Last fall, severe back pain - Physician said it was a disc protrusion - Did a lot of stretching and stabilization exercises for the spine that gradually "fixed it"

-When the pain that was supposedly from a disc protrusion acted up, I noticed that by either releasing the tensor fascia latae, the gluteus medius/piriformis, or both, my aching back would let go completely. I did this using a lacrosse ball, and would be fine for the rest of the day, and sometimes even throughout the next one too. As an extra piece of information, I have no problem squatting all the way down to the point where my hamstrings meet my calves without rounding the lower back.

Now to the point of this post:

Having read through a lot of these posts, and read some of your written work, it seems like the piriformis plays a key role to achieve good form on a lot of lower body stretches. I have previously read a lot on stretching and back pain, and from my "studies" I have suspected that piriformis syndrom might have played a significant role in my back pain history. Whenever I have had a stiff lower back, releasing the piriformis and/or the tfl always seem to be the answer. For that reason I tried out your newest piriformis stretch as a means for a more permanent solution. When doing it, and for some time afterwards, my back tightened up severly. It would have to be described as hip/lower back numbness and discomfort. My piriformis seemed tight as well, as if trying to resist the stretch (even after stretching).

Does my suspected diagnosis seem reasonable, and how would the best approach for me be to handle that pesky piriformis? I have no intention of aggravating more back again, though neither do I intent on letting the piriformis and tfl keeping tightening up like they do.

I have a lot of stuff regarding stretching that I'd like to discuss further with the forum members (hint: loaded stretching, strength and mobility, and the works of Thomas Kurz for those who are familiar with it), but that will be for another post:)

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I have a lot of stuff regarding stretching that I'd like to discuss further with the forum members (hint: loaded stretching, strength and mobility, and the works of Thomas Kurz for those who are familiar with it), but that will be for another post:)

I recently read Thomas Kurz book Stretching Scientifically.

I'm interested in acheiving both my middle and side splits, and thought his book would help. While he does bring up good points, I really didn't find his book too helpful. He acts as if everyone reading his book has the same exact body and problems, and expects everyone to be able to achieve his level of success as easily/in the same manner as he did.

The most I got out of his book was his recommendation to perform a daily active stretching routine involving the various kicks he talks about. I've definitely seen improvements in how high I'm getting my kicks by performing them on a daily basis.

What are your thoughts on his work?

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Q. reply before I teach: loaded stretching (like Jefferson curls) is something I have been writing about and practising for—20 years or more, and it's even an exercise recommended in the first edition of Overcome neck & back pain! As for mobility, same there, too (we called it "limbering" 20 years ago, because that's what they call it in the dance world).

Allesandro's post, where he mentions the four kinds of flexibility, is what I will write on as soon as I get home; in this post he wrote:

During the flexibility day of that course o talked about this aspect with a 20 years national coach and his opinion is that there are 4 approach to flexibility

-passive flexibility

-dynamic passive flexibility

-static active flexbility

-dynamic active flexibility

while if you posses the last one you can easily demonstrate the previous, this is not happening if you can demonstrate the first one.

I want to expand on all these points in the weeks to come—I don't agree with the last point, but the four categories are a great organising principle. And I recommended Thomas's book in my Stretching & Flexibility, too, for anyone wanting to emphasise dynamic flexibility. More later; I must teach now.

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Haven't read Overcome neck and back pain, though I have bin doing Jefferson curls to improve my pike position. It does indeed seem like piriformis is what is holding me back after reading up on a bit of anatomy, and trying out a couple of stretches.

Looking forward to your upcomming posts!

With regards to my view on Thomas Kurz work I must say I agree with a lot of his thoughts about strengthening yourself at the end range of a movement. I do not have any martial art background or similar, so I will not comment on his dynamic flexibility part. However, from my personal experience, and observation, it seems clear to me that a major concern with mobility is strength deficiencies. Need to improve the squat position? Try staying more time in it! Of course one might be tight, but such tightness seems to me to often come from muscles overcompensating, hence weakness. The picture is complex, and this is of course just one piece of the puzzle, but never the less a vital one.

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Kaspar wrote

I must say I agree with a lot of his thoughts about strengthening yourself at the end range of a movement.

And that's the reason we both practise active flexibility (using the agonists to pull yourself into a stretch; this strengthens them) and the C-R approach (strengthens the muscles in the extended, end-ROM). This is a perfect combination.

@ the OP, Kaspar, who wrote:

-When the pain that was supposedly from a disc protrusion acted up, I noticed that by either releasing the tensor fascia latae, the gluteus medius/piriformis, or both, my aching back would let go completely.

If that's the case, very unlikely a disc was the cause. Overall tension in this area and very tight HF much more likely.

​I will make a separate post on Allesandro's post, some time today.

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