My Backache

A few years ago, I woke up with a backache. Like any normal young adult, I decided to ignore it and went about my days. The pain grew over the months to the point where I could not sit for extended periods of time. I would drive and exit the car in numbing pain. I went for massages which only provided temporary relief. The pain would return with a vengeance and extended into radiating pains down my thigh. I was worried that I had a spinal injury, a herniated disc perhaps. I went for checkups, scans, and second opinions but alas, my spine was in good condition! The doctors simply sent me to physiotherapy that only helped minimally.

After more than half a year, I was introduced to a Chinese physician. After listening to my condition, her team proceeded to give me the most painful deep tissue massage (tui na) I have ever had in my life. I have a high tolerance for pain (case in point: half a year of radiating pain) but I will not send my worst enemies to her. I have seen grown men cry in her clinic. However, it was worth it. 90% of my pain went away after just one session. What surprised me was that she did not massage my legs nor my back much. Instead, she pressed deeply into my buttocks in all angles, seemingly searching for gold. I did not understand why or what she was doing but I recovered fully after 3 sessions, so I told everyone it was a miracle that Western medicine could not achieve.

Fast forward to my YTT course today, I learned about the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle originates from the anterior part of the sacrum and inserts into the greater trochanter of the femur. In short, it starts from the front/ bottom of your spine to the top of your thigh bone. It is in charge of externally rotating your femur and also abducting it when hips are flexed.

More importantly, when the piriformis muscle is inflamed, it will impinge on the sciatica nerve. This causes lower backache, pain down the back of thigh/calf/ foot, and pain after prolonged sitting. Sounds familiar? This is also known as piriformis syndrome.

This is the pot of gold that my Chinese physician was looking for! Causes of piriformis syndrome include overexertion due to impact or exercise.

Today, I wonder why my doctors and physiotherapist did not diagnose me as such. Nevertheless, this lesson has taught me the importance of body awareness and anatomical knowledge. Your physical body is the only vehicle carrying you for the rest of your life. You are the passenger, driver, and mechanic. Take care of it.