Weightlifting Injury Frustration
Hey friends, Audrie here.
Something terrible happened a couple of weeks ago. A dreaded weightlifting injury… and I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s really throwing of my whole gym vibe, and the gym is my stress-reliever. And to make matters worse, it’s preventing me from doing my very favorite gym activities. Because I can’t do a real leg day.
I haven’t been to a doctor or PT (yet - I’ll go soon if I can’t “fix” the issue myself), but I am 99% sure I have a piriformis injury. I’m basing this on my own internet research, and some input via text message from my brother who is a senior at KU studying athletic training. So, take anything medical-sounding in this journal post with a grain of salt because I’m not a doctor.
Based on my understanding, the piriformis is part of the glute musculature, and is responsible for rotation of the hip/leg. When the piriformis becomes tight or inflamed, it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve and causes pain in the glute and lower back, sometimes radiating down through the leg. Piriformis issues are more common in sumo deadlifters (i.e. me) because of the external foot rotation. So, it makes sense.
It was leg day, I had warmed up and then completed squats (5 sets of 5 reps), and was feeling fine. I moved into deadlifts, and did my warm-up set. Felt great, weight was moving easily. I added some weight, planning to go into 5 sets of 5 reps of a heavier weight. I had been crushing deadlifts over the past few weeks, so went confidently into the first heavy set. I felt my left glute tweak, and I had to stop after two reps.
This is frustrating for me because heavy lifting had kinda become my thing, and my top two favorite moves are squats and deadlifts and I currently can’t do either of them. This is frustrating because I’ve spent the past year working really hard to get stronger in these lifts, and this may un-do some of that progress. This is frustrating because there is not an easy “fix” for this kind of thing… it’s going to be several more weeks before I feel comfortable trying any heavy leg-focus lifts.
So what am I doing in the meantime while this thing (hopefully) heals up? Stretching, applying a heating pad now and then, trying to keep the whole glute/lower back area loose. I’ve been doing some bodyweight / banded movements, and can use a handful of leg-focused machines without any pain. I’ve been trying various techniques from “how to relieve piriformis pain” articles and YouTube videos. But what I’m mostly doing (and what I think will ultimately do the most good) is resting the muscle group. And trying to think about rest as a necessary step to full recovery, as opposed to thinking about how much strength progress I may be losing while recovering. Put it this way - if I keep re-inuring the muscle, I’ll be out of the game for a lot longer than if I just step back and allow myself to rest.
So, if you see my guns looking extra muscle-y over the next month or so, it’s because I’m on a leg-day hiatus. ;-)