My Physio Visit


I’ve been having lower back problems for a few months now.

It’s not debilitating, nor excruciating. But boy does it ever hurt in the morning, or after I’ve been standing for a while. A dull, throbbing ache that doesn’t have a right to be there.

My chiropractor had recommended physio, but I neglected to make an appointment until my last visit: “I don’t want to see you again until you’ve gone to physio!” So I went.

As a runner, it’s not surprising that I have very tight hamstrings. Which are connected to…well, everything, apparently? But that’s not what we worked on, the physio and me. After covering a lot of the details – when and where things hurt, what activities I do (running, boot camp, occasional yoga), what I do at work (sit all day) and after work (umm…sit some more?), we got down to the twisty business.

The Assessment

Standing, bending, jogging barefoot down the hall (“Can you hear how loud you are?”), and finally lying on the table. Bending and turning, it’s clear that my right side is the problem – not entirely unusual given that it’s my dominant side. I’ve got a ‘gummy’ right ankle, possibly a remnant from last year’s Scotiabank Half Marathon, when I got a little tweak as I picked up speed on the way downhill from UBC to Spanish Banks. One little injury can throw a lot of things off, causing over-compensation and, evidently, a lot of other problems.

Things are really sticky in my piriformis. Yep. If you don’t know (I didn’t, but soon learned), the piriformis is a muscle in the butt, just above the glutes. And focused pressure on that spot hurts (but it’s a good pain).

Somewhat related – I’m a little unclear on the anatomy of it – my pelvic tilt is a bit off as well. Combined with everything else, and certainly affecting my running gait, this is a problem that needs attention.

And my hip flexor is a mess. This is extremely important for a runner. I’ve Googled this a bit, and evidently, tight hip flexors can also cause back pain.

My Homework

The physio gave me several things to work on:

1) Quad stretches: lying on the right side, bend and grasp the right knee with the right hand; the grasp the left ankle with the left hand. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Switch sides. Do this every day. “But what about my hamstrings??” Apparently, stretchy quads are more important at this stage.

2) This one is weird. Lying on my back, feet flat on the floor, knees bent. “Pretend you’re in a meeting, and you really have to fart. But there’s still 10 minutes left of the meeting. You’ve got to hold it in, but no one can notice. Do that, and then relax about 50%. Now breathe, in through your nose, out through your mouth, 10 times.” This is something about training my pelvic floor? Not entirely clear, but perhaps a valuable skill.

3) Ball rolling: the painful one. Lying on a tennis ball, and getting it right in there – working on both the piriformis and the hip flexor. EVERY DAY. Not an activity to be taken lightly.


It’s really too early to draw any, but already I’m feeling a bit of release in my back. My hope is that with continued work on those sticky spots, things will continue to improve. And, perhaps, my running will get better too?

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