Me and my broken butt

I have a guess now: I think I ripped, pulled, tore, or otherwise did injury to a gluteal muscle, not the obvious maximus but one of the smaller ones that anchors directly to the pelvic bone, possibly the gluteus minimus or the piriformis.

Paul thinks I did it while moving furniture and it took a couple of weeks to start giving trouble. I don’t know about that. I do know it seemed to start on Tuesday a week ago, when I was reaching off the back porch for the cat dish that was just a liiittle bit beyond the end of the fingertips of my right hand. Just a little more — knk. Oh, that didn’t feel so good.

So I was kinda sore for the rest of the week, getting steadily more obvious and severe. I had to do yoga in “ow my back” mode. On Saturday I thought I was getting better. Then we went to Seattle for the weekend — long car ride, sleeping on something other than my precious futon, sitting for hours at a baseball game and then with Paul’s family at the Owl and Thistle.

During the car ride back to Bellingham early Monday morning, my back/upper butt was killing me. The car seat seemed to be constructed exactly perfectly torturously wrong for whatever my deal was. It hurt oh-my-God badly for pretty much the entire 90 minute ride. I burst into tears a couple of times. I turned off the radio because NPR was too boring and complaining about stupid people seemed like a better distraction. Being in pain made me angry. I think I understand old people better now.

Getting out of the car once we arrived in Bellingham was a nightmare of tortured screaming and weird contortions. Briefly, standing up and being still didn’t hurt. Then I took a step and everything hurt again. I didn’t go to work because I couldn’t sit at a desk.

The things that caused excruciating pain included: Standing. Sitting. Lying down. Walking. Getting up from a chair. Getting up from the floor. Getting out of bed. Coughing. Sneezing. Laughing. Turning my head. Taking a deep breath. Bending forward. Bending backward.

Standing up seemed to cause less pain than most things, except for sometimes when I shift the weight to my right leg and OH MY GOD CLUTCH THE WALL PANT PANT PANT OW!!!!!!! So after being both bored and in pain on Monday I went to work on Tuesday, where they had set up my desk at standing height. That seemed to work okay. So at home I set up my writing computer to be at standing height and I could get a little work done.

It’s weird, though. Even in those moments when I’m not actually, technically in pain, I have a diminished performance capacity. I can concentrate, but not on anything boring or frustrating. Other people annoy me more than usual. I feel perpetually whiny and peevish, and sometimes depressed.

When I get tired of standing up, I kneel or sit seiza (Japanese-style-sitting). It can hurt getting into and out of those positions, but they don’t tend to hurt while I’m there.

Based on my scientific study of shady Internet sites and Wikipedia, I am pretty sure that what I have is soft tissue damage with no sciatica. My guess is injury to the piriformis on the right side, because in diagrams it looks like just exactly where the pain is coming from. But I know that sort of thing can be deceiving.

No, I have not been to a doctor. I am one of those umpity-million of Americans with no health insurance, and anyway as far as I can tell the only thing a doctor could really do for me right now is prescribe opiates.

So, that’s the deal with me right now. My butt is broken. It’s probably going to heal itself in time. How much time? Who knows? And if I grimace at you it’s probably the pain.

If any of you have useful information or experiences, feel free to share.


  1. Ow. That totally sucks.

    Most of this advice is coming from me-as-dancer, and it’s stuff I’ve done for tendonitis/bursitis/pulled and torn muscles/sore back. You probably know most of this, but it might help hearing it again, anyway.

    You’re probably already doing this, but if it’s soft tissue damage then some of the pain is from inflamation. You want to alternate ice and heat – ice to get the swelling down, and heat to bring new blood in to heal. Sitting on an ice pack is no fun either, but it does help (I’ve pulled groins before, so I understand some of what you’re going through). Tiger balm or something like it can help the muscles, if not the ligaments. If you can afford it, once it’s not so painful, I’d look into careful massage to loosen up the surrounding area, and very careful stretching. Because of the amount of pain, I’d really look into talking to a PT or a body mechanic, even if it’s just unofficially. Because torn interior stuff might need more specific treatment than just the general stuff.

    I really hope this heals up quickly and well for you. I empathize completely.

    1. As a long-time pain-sufferer, I second both parts of this. When you alternate ice and heat, make sure you end up with ice, even though heat is more appealing, because bringing down the swelling is really important. Don’t sit on that ice pack for more than 20 minutes in an hour.

      And if you can find someone to look at your body to make sure you’re not more seriously injured, that would be good. When I’ve been in big pain and seen doctors, they’ve never prescribed opiates, but they have prescribed extra-strength ibuprofen or Alleve to decrease swelling and pain. Alleve is better if you suspect that a joint is involved; ibuprofen is better if it’s strictly muscle.

      1. Author

        I am now officially super sympathetic toward and admiring of people who put up with long-term chronic pain.

    1. Author

      That wouldn’t feel bad, actually. Spank away!

  2. I am so sorry. I had piriformis issues after that van knocked me out of a crosswalk, even after my tailbone had mostly healed, and it felt like a coke-can-sized chunk of pain in my ass. Piriformis stretches did help.

    Seconding the PT (or really good massage therapist) if you can swing it. I don’t want to be a downer, but be prepared for the possibility of a long haul.

    1. Also, I have to say that it sounds more than a little like my disc herniation experience. Before it developed into a classic sciatic misery, it started as a butt pain.

      What happens if you lie down on your back (I know, I know) with your legs straight, and Paul lifts one leg at a time? If it’s a truly excruciating pain, the kind that makes you want to shout PUT DOWN NOW DOWN DOWN DOWN FUCK AAAAAAAGH, that’s a pretty good sign that you need to consider the possibility of a herniated disc. If not, you’re probably clear of that.

      I hear you about the crabbiness, btw. I’ve been enjoying watching my mood track my pain. Wow, pain can sure make a person pissy.

      1. Author

        Actually, lying on my back is relatively painless once I’m there — it’s getting into and out of position that hurts. I can lift my own legs without pain until they get high enough for the offending muscle to engage/stretch, what does that tell you?

        1. Tells me your discs are almost certainly just fine. Yay!

    2. Author

      Ouch! I am now officially super-extra-sympathetic to anybody with chronic pain issues.

      If a few weeks from now yoga still isn’t getting the healing job done, I’ll consider PT or massage or something.

  3. Take care Julie!

    When I was in the hospital they made an icepack by slicing open a super large maxi pad and stuffing it with ice. There are also these heat packs that stick to you like band aids. You can stick them under clothes and still move around. They last for hours.

    But I seriously recommend finding health insurance. You’re both at an age now that preventative medicine (yearly screenings and checkups) makes a huge difference and small injuries can turn into huge down time and losses of income. I see the medical histories of people every day who were doing just fine until this one thing that could have been prevented. Some of them were freelancers or artists who didn’t manage their cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid, or get mammograms and colon checks, etc and ended up on welfare because of massive medical bills. (I tried looking at WashTech but couldn’t find a healthcare plan. I saw the freelancers union on TV.) (This is come of the best rates in the country.)

    Sometimes working as a contractor though a temp agency will give you access to cheaper rates.

    1. Author

      Re: Take care Julie!

      Thanks for the thought, but I do not believe that insurance — especially the kind of insurance I could acquire as an individual — will save me from going broke if something goes seriously wrong. Most people who go bankrupt from medical bills actually have insurance when it happens. So then you have paid all this money into the insurance company and when you need it, it doesn’t come through anyway.

      I do get routine checkups and whatnot. Let’s hear it for Planned Parenthood!

  4. Oh dear! I hope you recover as quickly as possible. I have no useful advice myself. I can just commiserate — I’ve been incredibly grouchy all week due to shoulder/neck pain. I did finally get to the doctor this a.m. and she prescribed a muscle relaxant. So far it’s not helping. I’d prefer opiates.

    Does it make you feel better mentally to know I’m looking forward to reading your story in Space Grunts, which should arrive in a day or two?

    1. Author

      Yes, it makes me feel better.

      Oddly, so does coffee. I mean, physically better, not just mentally.

      1. Assuming your coffee has caffeine, that doesn’t surprise me — it’s a pain reliever. Excedrin works (for me) so much better than anything else because it has aspirin, acetominiphin, and caffeine. In fact, I think one Excedrin has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.

        And since I don’t drink coffee, the first time I took two Excedrin — at Clarion West, oddly enough — I was bouncing off the walls until about 4 a.m. But it did get rid of my headache!

  5. Author

    Yes, I’m definitely hoping for that. I am now super extra sympathetic for your pain.

  6. What a pain in the ass! (Okay, someone had to say it.)

    Soft tissue damage is awful and is a long time healing. My foot sympathizes with your butt and suggests making good friends with a lot of ice and anti-inflammatories.

    1. Author

      >>What a pain in the ass! (Okay, someone had to say it.)

      I know! I’m just surprised it wasn’t .

      Although, your foot sympathizing with my butt sounds suspiciously like you’re planning to kick me in the ass…

      1. I know, it does! Or, that I *did* kick you in the butt and you’re now suffering the result. So, can I blame your butt for my sore foot?

  7. If you decide to try to visit a chiropractor or massage therapist, I have amazing ones that I love.

    And I’m so, so sorry. I am currently fighting hives I acquired as an allergic reaction to a prescription antibiotic. (Of course I’m the .01% of the population with this reaction.) Hives and Pain make me equally snippy and unable to be nice. I hope you feel better soon and more quickly than you hoped.

    1. Author

      Ew, hives are horrid. Sometimes itchy is worse than painful, in its own special way.

      I hope so too!

      It’s funny — this is the fourth day in a row I’ve spent most of it standing up. The key injury often feels good enough while this is happening that when the other muscles in my back or legs start to get tired from the standing, I think “Oh, I’ll just sit down and rest for a moment” and then suddenly I’m reminded of why I was standing in the first place…

      1. That’s why I use painkillers when I need to – usually not for the actual pain, but because my other muscles start being strained when they try to adjust for my injury. When I pulled one of my shoulder muscles, everything around it hurt a lot longer than it took to heal the original injury, just being pulled in unexpected ways by my coping mechanisms.

        The itching is bad, but at least I figured out why. When I woke up this morning, I just thought I’d been attacked by bugs in the night. Yeah, not so much. Cue panic attack, research, resolution, relief. Most of my hives on are my hands, and that’s something I use every minute, and take for granted much of the time. Not anymore!

        My massage therapist charges $65 an hour. And that’s as pushy as I’m going to be about that, except to say that massage has helped me immeasurably with back and other injuries.

  8. How’s it going on this front? I have what is apparently torn cartilage in my hip, and can definitely empathize. The positions I can find that don’t cause pain are both few and decidedly funny looking, which has caused some amusement at work. :p

    1. Author

      I’m recovering, I think. My movement seems way less restricted and I have fewer moments of “OH MY GOD!” pain.

      I am thinking about keeping my desk at standing height for the long haul, though. Maybe get a tall chair.

Comments are closed.