A Simple Self-Massage Regimen from Radical Being Bodywork’s Deb Malkin

Welcome to the second installment of our three-month series in which queer-friendly health and beauty professionals offer accessible ways to show yourself some love! Deb Malkin is the owner and proprietor of Radical Being Bodywork, a massage therapy practice “for every body” in Oakland, California. Below, Malkin shares an easy self-massage technique for relieving back and hip pain.

I see a lot of clients with lower back or hip discomfort or even difficulty walking, all of which are often caused by a literal pain in the butt. The piriformis muscle (one of the “deep six” muscles responsible for the rotation of your leg, as well as a key player in balance) — or, as I like to call it, “the little fucker” — is a common culprit of this issue. Depending on the person, the sciatic nerve may run under the piriformis or through it; if the muscle is tight or spasming, it can put pressure on the nerve, causing pain and/or weakness.

For clients with a tight piriformis muscle, I usually suggest self-myofascial release homework in addition to massage. Here’s how to do it:

1. Lay down on a firm surface. I use my bed since it’s not too soft.
2. Take a tennis or lacrosse ball, and tuck it under the fleshy part of your butt — not the bone.
3. Move the ball to the side of your sacrum (the triangular-shaped bone in the middle of your lower back/butt area). When you find a tender spot, rest there.
4. Let your tissue melt around the ball for a few minutes, then move it to a new spot.
5. Switch the ball to the other side of your body to make sure you get even relief all around.

Here’s a short video of the process:

This activity is only suggested if you can reach under yourself to move the ball, or if you have a helper who can assist. If you have any kind of diagnosed issues with your sacrum or spine, please consult your doctor or chiropractor first.

Repetition and consistency help; when I need to loosen my own piriformis, I do this exercise before going to bed, and then again when I wake up. Massage and self-myofascial release are wonderful tools for pain relief and increased mobility; you have a lot of power to change the way you feel!

You can see the first installment of this series here.

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Nora is a writer and shoot producer living in Brooklyn. Send her links to weird clothing and dog videos to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

Nora has written 52 articles for us.


  1. Thanks so much for this, Nora! I’m constantly sore and always looking for anything to help.

  2. Thank you Thank you for posting this! I use a small foam roller in a similar fashion and shit it feels good

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