When you drive, think about what your right leg is doing. Your right leg is in extension. It is pressing on the gas pedal or the stop pedal. The gluteus minimus extends the thigh at the hip joint in this position. It sits just above the piriformis. A tight piriformis can compress the sciatic nerve causing symptoms of sciatica. This condition is called piriformis syndrome. The gluteus minimus sits quite near the rim of the sciatic foramen.
Now, let’s consider the hamstring muscle group. The adductor magnus is also extended when driving a car. Because it is located so far posterior, it is attached to the ischial tuberosity and can extend the thigh at the hip joint. Along with the adductor magnus, the biceps femoris, the semitendinosus muscle and the semimembranosus muscle all belong to the hamstring group. Interestingly, the semitendinosus is named for its long distal tendon. It is also one of three muscles that attach into the pes anserine tendon. Each of these muscles innervate the sciatic nerve. When any of these muscles has been strained or overstretched, it can cause pain way up in the sit bones. Sometimes my students will say that the bones on their pelvis ache. It makes sense!
Recently I strained my hamstring by running a prep race for the Capitol 10K with a group of runners. We looked at the map and started running--without even stretching! Well, at mile 2, I felt my right hamstring give way. It literally grabbed me. I could barely walk and had to walk 2 miles BACK to reach my car. I almost called for an Uber, but I was dang determined to make it on my own.
Interestingly, a personal trainer I spoke with later that week suggested that I stretch the hamstring to repair the injury. However, my chiropractor, Dr. Jimmie, in Steiner Ranch, suggested just the opposite. He suggested that I give it a rest. Once the pain had subsided, he suggested I work the hamstring to rebuild it. That was the magic formula. I re-introduced “donkey kicks” and holds using my CoreFit ropes, doing a modified Hunting Dog, and on my tummy, kicking one bent leg to the ceiling. We do these last two moves quite often in my Perfect Posture Yoga class and my Delicious Deep Stretch Yoga class.
April 10th, the Capital 10K Run, has now come and gone. I was able to complete the race and am about 90% back to normal. When we injure a muscle, a useful tactic is to examine the purpose of the muscle. Then, we look at whether the muscle was injured in flexion or extension. It is then a matter of rest and rebuilding the muscle.
The one wrinkle in this equation is the act of driving my car for a long time. Anything longer than 30 minutes, my hamstring starts with a dull ache and finally starts to scream at me to get out of the car, walk around, kick up my heel to my glute and carry on again. Another useful strategy is compression, either through massage or using a vibrational component tool (like my Liberator tool).
Have you had a similar experience that you would like to share? Any tips that you have learned along the way? Please email me at email@example.com. Your fellow yogis can benefit from your experience.