Question:

My mother has had chronic pain in the deep tissue muscle and/or bone on her right hip joint/buttocks muscle. I was thinking about purchasing a percussive theragun to loosen the muscle that is causing her pain. We have tried a foam roller but it is hard for her to get down on the ground to even use it and getting back up. We also have a back buddy but she also has a hard time using that herself as well due to ROM restrictions in her right shoulder. Do you think that this could help relieve her pain or would it make it worse? Or are there any other recommendations/ stretches I could help her with?

P.S. – I think the muscle is the piriformis muscle that is the source but I am not a medical professional.


Answer:

Thank you for reaching out and I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s chronic pain in her right hip. Unfortunately, without doing an examination I’m not able to comment at length on her condition as I’d need to have more information to do so. Nevertheless, there’s a few general principles that we can discuss that may be helpful.

Using instruments such as a back buddy or a percussive theragun can be useful tools to provide immediate pain relief as the pressure mechanism gives an analgesic, or pain-relieving effect, similar to that of a massage. However, it’s also possible that deep and/or repeated pressure may be more irritating than relieving in the case of an irritated muscle. Your mother’s experience with using the back buddy is a good indicator of how she’ll respond to using a theragun.

Regarding the goal of relieving muscle tightness, there is not sufficient evidence that the use of instruments like the back buddy or theragun alone is effective for these purposes. In Physical Therapy, while we will commonly use manual therapy techniques that have similar effects as the theragun we will follow up with a stretch to try and increase the length of the muscle tissue. It’s difficult to prescribe stretches/exercises or give recommendations without having sufficient knowledge of the contributing structures to your mother’s hip pain.

Identifying musculoskeletal sources of your mother’s hip pain is something a Physical Therapist would be well suited to do during an evaluation and accordingly prescribe therapeutic exercises. Cases of chronic pain often require multiple approaches to achieve optimal results in an efficient manner, such as methods for tissue relaxation, improving mobility, strengthening, and ultimately progressing to functional movement training to return to performance of normal daily activities. Again, these are all factors a Physical Therapist would consider after conducting an evaluation and during the course of treatment.

Nevertheless, I can detail a simple piriformis stretch to try, and you and your mother can determine whether it provides a certain degree of pain relief. Begin by lying on your back with both knees bent and feet resting flat on the ground. Cross one leg over the other so your foot (on the painful side) is resting on your knee. Grab your leg just below the knee and slowly draw it towards your opposite shoulder until you feel a stretch in your buttocks. Be sure too not allow your back to twist or bend excessively during the stretch.


**This reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.