Ouch! The Fit Bottomed Girls Guide to Muscle Sprains and Strains

sprains-strains-adviceAny other piriformis syndrome sufferers out there?  I am dealing with a pain in my butt. Not an annoying houseguest or a stalled train interrupting my commute but an actual pain radiating from my right butt cheek. (TMI?) As a proud Fit Bottomed Girl, I wanted to evaluate how I can best treat this darn thing and educate my fellow FBGs.

Turns out that teaching indoor cycling and not being as good about foam rolling before and after classes as I should helped me to develop piriformis syndrome, which is when the piriformis muscle compresses the sciatic nerve causing a radiating pain down the leg. Fun!

Dealing with this pain made me want to understand more about the difference between a muscle sprain and a muscle strain. Below are answers to that question as well as how best treat whatever is making your muscles groan right now (and even how even the best fitness pros get injured and recover). Here’s to a quick healing process for us all!

Richard L. Green, D.C. Chiropractic physician/medical co-director North-East Regional CrossFit Games 2012-2015: Sprains and strains are often used interchangeably, but they are two distinct specific injuries.

  • A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament (the bands of fibrous tissue that connect our bones at the joints).
  • A strain is also a stretch or tear of the muscle itself or a tendon (the tissue that connect the muscles to the bones).

For severe sprains and strains it’s important to determine the exact tissues or structures that are injured. You might need to rule out fracture with X-rays, if indicated. There is always the possibility of complete ligament or muscle ruptures that would require referral to a specialist and possibly an MRI. Some severe sprains and strains might require immobilization with splints, braces and possibly crutches.

For mild to severe sprains and strains we like to reduce the acute chemical pain as quickly as possible. Some of the many treatment techniques that I use regularly to treat mild to moderate sprains and strains include chiropractic manipulation, active release technique, Graston technique, fascial manipulation, BelleCore deep-tissue massager, Litecure laser therapy and RockTape application. Depending on the injury, we might recommend ice in the acute stage (24 to 48 hours).

Pain is usually the last thing to show up at the dysfunctional party, and proper evaluation and assessment can help show if you are at increased risk of a sprain or strain.

Brad Thomas, M.D. (Beach Cities Orthopedics and Sports Medicine): Piriformis pain or syndrome is caused by tightness or injury to the piriformis muscle, which often irritates the sciatic nerve. Treatment is geared toward relaxing the muscle and decreasing the pain and inflammation in the area. Specific stretches and soft tissue massage, which can be accomplished through physical therapy, are the mainstay treatments.

A seated cross leg twist, or lying figure of four stretch are both very effective to stretch the piriformis. Rolling ones gluteal region with a hard ball (lacrosse ball), taking anti-inflammatory medication, and alternating ice and heat are some simple home remedies.

For more stubborn cases, consider trigger injections, and your ob/gyn may be helpful to differentiate other causes of pelvic pain.

Shay Kostabi, New Balance ambassador and fitness expert: I am so clumsy! I just sprained my foot and broke a pinky toe but am lucky because my stepdad is a physical therapist and RN. It’s very important to treat your injury right away. Follow the RICE protocol right away; rest, ice, compression, elevation. Have it looked at and listen to your physical therapist or general practitioner when they tell you to take a break.

Be patient with the healing process, even small sprains can take a long time. If you rush it, you risk further complications.

Sasha DiGiulian, Adidas Outdoor AthleteI am an active person and don’t like to sit still by nature, but when I broke my ankle I listened to my doctors and completely rested for two long months and then graduated to no high-impact exercising. It was hard but I would rather do nothing for two months than deal with a persistent injury for two years!

Nancy Donahue, managing partner BelleCore FitnessI was the fitness director for a high-end country club and would help members with sore muscles. One of them gave me a quirky device to help healing with scar tissue. She told me to use it on my leg muscles before and after my runs (I used to compete in marathons and triathlons) and my muscle recovery and soreness improved tremendously.

A team of us helped to create the BelleCore to help athletes get relief by increasing the blood flow to their muscle groups with high oscillation and vibration. If you can’t get your hands on one right away sometimes a good massage will help increase circulation and decrease the pain. But always check with your doctor for anything that seems to be chronic.

What are your tips for dealing with a muscle sprain or a muscle strain? —Margo

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4 Comments

  1. I also used to suffer from piriformis syndrome, and I have been pain free for over a year now. Foam rolling and stretching will definitely help alleviate it, but to actually treat it you likely need to focus on building up your glute medius. When I went to a physical therapist, I was at first offended when he said I had a weak glute medius, but for fitness enthusiasts with built glutes and quads, the glute maximus often takes over for the glute medius in a ‘don’t worry, I got this, you just relax’ kind of way. As a result the glute medius gets weak, and then the muscles pinch the sciatic nerve. If you are struggling with this issue, try doing this video workout (I wanted to cry the first time I tried it bc it was so hard/slightly painful, but it gets better!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXv8j3Lxtac. I do this workout 3 times a week now and I’ve stopped having any associated pain- so worth it! Hope this helps!

  2. Great article!! I LOVE foam rolling. It has helped tremendously with soreness after workouts :). Warming up before a workout and stretching afterwards helps, too.

  3. Great post. Very informative. You should always see a physician or licensed health care professional, like a physical therapist. Repetitive injuries like tendonitis, could arise from muscle imbalances, poor form, or structural problems. These are issues that a physical therapist should address. 🙂