The questions surrounding the variety of hip and leg pains we experience are as many as the variety of people suffering from them. But as an acupuncturist, I believe I’ve heard them all. In fact, you can take some small comfort in knowing that you are not alone, because hip and leg related aches and pains are one of the most prevalent of all complaints. But knowing that most people at one time or another may suffer what you suffer doesn’t make it hurt any less.
The good news is, more often than not, this feeling is a simple combination of muscle and nerve pain that can be traced back to some inactivity that has gravitated to your overuse of a muscle for a short period of time. Simply put, you did something more than you usually do and you put a whole lot more effort into doing it than would be considered normal for you. Some examples of this might be: You’re at the company’s yearly outing where you play a round of golf followed by an hour of just sitting around and enjoying a luncheon, or you’re on a day trip hiking up hills for several miles before climbing aboard a comfortable seat on a tour bus that takes you back to your starting point. Another example might be that as an inexperienced runner you find yourself participating in a charity race in the afternoon, and rewarding yourself for completing it by attending a feature-length movie that evening. There are so many reasons that can make you, as an individual, more susceptible than others, but on average it’s usually related to overworking your muscles of the lower back and hip.
When you follow this over-activity with immediate inactivity, so that the muscles that you were working so hard are now remaining in a relaxed position for an extended period of time, they begin tightening, and may even continue to tighten over several more days. But that’s just the beginning of what is going on. Now, the nerves come into play. The nerves from the lower back are positioned under and between these muscles, so as the muscles tighten, and you start feeling stiffness and a lack of flexibility, the added pressure on these nerves begin to transmit pain through your hip, buttock and leg. What you are now feeling is a muscle spasm. The physical problem itself is not a severe one, but you can’t tell that to your body while experiencing such agonizing pain. It is effectively draining your energy, your ability and desire to concentrate on routine tasks, and makes it virtually impossible to participate in any activities related to your employment. All of your focus is on your pain and how to make it go away. Actually, if you were to do an online search describing the pain you are feeling, you might get a result that describes pain felt by chronic sciatica sufferers, but it isn’t truly sciatica. Sciatica is a result of degeneration in the lumbar spine, or lower back. So without getting overly technical, you might have something less severe going on, but it doesn’t make coping with the pain mimicking the more severe condition any easier to deal with.
Now it’s time to learn how to make it go away and keep it from returning over time. A visit to an acupuncturist, whose knowledge includes the administration of the longest continuously practiced form of medicine in history, should bring you welcomed relief. The acupuncturist will gently insert very fine, sterile and disposable stainless steel needles into precise pressure points in the tight muscle. With the assist of a gentle technique the acupuncturist also delivers in conjunction with this application, there will be a release of the muscle tension and the nerve pain will simply disappear. In cases where people seek treatment soon after the pain begins, one treatment may be all that is needed. However, if the pain has been ongoing for several weeks or months, it may require 3-6 treatments to completely resolve it all. Once the pain is gone, the acupuncturist will sit down with you to explain a number of techniques you should practice at home on a regular basis to mitigate the return of this condition. If you are reading this and haven’t as yet contacted an acupuncturist, here are some things that you can do to temporarily relieve the discomfort. As long as there is no inflammation, use a moist heating pad over the muscles in the lower back and buttock for 20 minutes, or soak yourself in a hot bath. Once the muscles are warm, you can attempt to stretch them by lying on your back and pulling both your knees into your chest. Then stretch your hip and buttock by taking your leg (the painful one) and try moving your knee in the direction of the opposite shoulder. Caution: do everything in moderation; only when your back is warm; only in gradual movements; never stretch to the point of pain, and never push or pull too hard.
Now you know what brings this pain on and how to avoid it in the future. The next step is to get some immediate relief. Your Acupuncturist can help you with that. I hope this information brings you some temporary comfort until then.