The other day I was delighted to hear from my dear friend Gwen. She and I worked at Club Med together, and had later worked out in San Diego together at the very beginning of my career. We have stayed in touch mostly via Christmas cards, but the other day she reached out for some help with an ankle that just wouldn’t seem to heal from an injury in October. About two weeks later, she texted me this message:
“Hey, can you get nerve pain from your hip down to the quads. Mine are quite sore now for last 2 days.”
Apparently the ankles were better, but now another problem had revealed itself.
I love when layers of compensatory mechanisms peel away, revealing some root causes.
I wrote her back and said, “Sure you can. That’s the opposite of the sciatic nerve…it goes down the quads. Ever had it before? Some people get it from tight jean-itis…their jeans are tight and it compresses the nerve as it travels over the hip bone.”
Tight jean-itis is a made up word, of course, but very descriptive! I love tacking “-itis“ onto things that drive me bananas to make them sound more diagnostic and official. “Itis” just means “inflammation of”, so in this case we have an inflammation of tight jeans.
Tight quads also drive me bananas, so I often refer to the malady of “tight quad-itis” too. 🙂
We can take a three pronged approach:
So how do we go about solving tight jean-itis?
ONE: Nerve pain can come from the actual vertebrae and disc area. The nerve root- the part of the nerve that comes immediately out of the spinal cord- might be getting compressed. Nerve pain feels hot, or burning, or shooting, or pins-and-needles, or numb. Nerve pain tends to get your attention very quickly, and cause a bit of panic. This requires further investigation, and perhaps some official diagnostic information like an X-ray or MRI, but this investigation ties directly into the other two prongs.
TWO: The nerve is actually getting compressed where it crosses the hip bone. This is a simple solution: give yourself a little more fabric to work with!
THREE: One hip is out of position and putting pressure on the opposite side. Everyone has a strong or dominant side, and the other side is not as strong. Often the strong side, because it is doing the lion’s share of the work, appears to be the “problem” side. Believe me when I say the pursuit of balancing out the less strong side is time well spent. How do we catch the less dominant side up? Try skipping the strong side entirely when doing a strength exercise. Try giving the less dominant, less balanced, less flexible, or less coordinated side a second round of repetitions to match the natural ability of the dominant side.
Regardless of wether your strong side is displaying the symptoms, or the other side seems to be the problem, you want to balance the two sides out.
An incorrect assumption would be that both sides are working equally.
I find that is almost never true.
Therefore, deploy the three pronged approach, and see if you have within the locus of your control the ability to dictate to your body how it is to feel.
The opposite is often true: you feel as though you are at the whims and mercy of your body.
Let me know in the comments below if you have investigated this paradigm. It will add longevity and balance for all of your days!