Turns out I don't have something as cool and runner-y as piriformis syndrome. Instead I have......sciatica. Other than arthritis I don't think there is an older people sounding diagnosis. Between sciatica and my bunions can gout be far behind? Will I need to start wearing comfortable shoes and handing out sticky purse-fuzz laden hard candies to people? Will I need to wear a babushka? Can I get a more old lady diagnosis? Well, frankly yes but it is still embarrassing.
Actually sciatica is a symptom and not a diagnosis. It means that I somehow tweaked my back in early January without knowing it and that is causing impingement on my sciatic nerve that causes pain and weakness down my right buttock, thigh and behind my knee. The physical therapist thinks that the sciatica and right side weakness probably exacerbated my already ridiculously tight left calf muscle. It was fascinating to do the strength tests and to realize my left side could resist all of her pushing and effort and the right side could be easily moved. In one move there was zero resistance on the right side. This is definitely nerve and not muscular because she had me do a few stretches and then retested and the right side was stronger than 10 minutes before. .
So how do we treat this old lady symptom? Well, I start by purchasing a foam wedge so I can change the position in my car while I drive. And I get a desk chair at work that actually has lumbar support. Then I do a series of back stretches and strengthening moves to "un-impinge" the nerve. For my calf, I rest and do stretches, lots and lots of stretches. Once the pain is completely gone I can work on strengthening it too.
As for running, the therapist would like me to wait until I am completely symptom free on both sides but she must work with runners a fair amount because she said "but you are going to run before I think you are ready to aren't you" and I said "yup." That marathon won't run itself, lady. If the calf feels OK tomorrow I am heading out for an easy, flat four-miler to test it. I'm not sure what to do about my 15 mile long-run on Sunday but I will let my body dictate that decision. Wish me luck.