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.