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The Gluteus Maximus Takes a Snooze

June 15, 2014 by Diane

old lady with cane

Three months ago I had a cortisone shot in my right hip for bursitis, and the pain disappeared. For three glorious months I hiked, swam, and did one-legged squats as instructed by my physical therapist.

And then the shot wore off.

I emailed my doctor: The cortisone stopped working. The pain is worse now than it was before the shot. I can hardly walk two blocks. I have sharp pains shooting down my leg. What should I do?

The doctor emailed back: Schedule another shot.

I was in no hurry to get another needle jabbed into my bursa. Instead…I would use a cane.

I would drive to the drug store and buy a black cane, the kind that creepy people use in old movies. I would use that cane to hobble from my car to my job, and then to thump up and down the stairs all day. If necessary, I would crawl on my hands and knees.

And then…I would go to Costco.

I would go to Costco and buy toilet paper.

One-hundred and twenty rolls of super soft toilet tissue in a package that weighs three-quarters of my body weight. But to get to it, I would have to walk to the very back corner of the mammoth warehouse.

And I would leave the cane in the car.

And not use a cart.

I would haul those one-hundred and twenty rolls, or what feels like one-hundred and twenty rolls, from the back corner of the warehouse all the way to the front registers, and I would resist stopping every five feet to sit and rest on the humongous package. I would heave it onto the belt, and hand over my card, and when the cashier tells me that the card is expired, I wouldn’t bat an eye. I would offer to haul those one-hundred and twenty super-soft rolls back to the very back corner of the gargantuan warehouse without a cart or a cane.

Which I did.

Except for the last part. I left the condominium-sized package on the belt and limped to my car, muttering.

I scheduled an appointment with a physical therapist.  “You have no butt, woman,” she said. “And I don’t mean that in a good way.” The muscles had atrophied—a fancy word for shrank. But only on the right side. The left cheek was Mount Olympus. The right…Death Valley. The gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius had decided to take a siesta.

Imagine a guy flipping burgers at McDonalds. The flipper takes a three month nap, and leaves all the flipping to other employees who already have their hands full washing lettuce and slicing tomatoes and unscrewing lids on pickle jars and whipping up McCafe Frappes. These other workers are forced to take up the slack, flipping millions of burgers every day, and they’re raging.

That’s what was happening on the right side of my rump. The piriformis and the psoas and the IT band were doing the work that the glute-brothers should have been doing, and they were doing it poorly.

The physical therapist sent me to an orthopedic specialist. The specialist put me through a series of muscle tests and announced that I had lazy glutes.

“Those one-legged squats that you were told to do were just too hard! The muscles aren’t equipped to handle the job!”

Imagine asking the burger flipper to snap to because he has thirty minutes to make Coq au Vin for the President and five hundred guests. Can’t be done!

So the specialist gave me a series of easy exercises to do. I like easy. My lazy muscles like easy. This is like telling the burger flipper to 1: slide the spatula under the patty, and 2: flip it. Ten times.

In addition, she told me to squeeze my right glute with every heel strike.

And use the cane.

Which I did.

I drove to work. I got out of the car. I unearthed the cane from my trunk. I walked the three blocks as instructed, and I looked like an old lady squeezing a lemon between her thighs while holding back a fart.

I’ve scheduled another cortisone shot for next Friday.



  1. Joan merdinger says:

    It’s pretty much all you can do! I remember daddy got those in his shoulder. They were no fun to get sure got the job done! One of daddy’s favorite sayings was it’s hell getting old he was right! Hang in there… And as always great story!!!!!

  2. Once again, you wrote that with beauty, hilarity and grace but I’m sorry you’re going through this. My next post is along the same lines.

    I assume surgery is not an option… or are you avoiding it?

    After you get the next shot really work hard to build up your other butt cheek. Once you balance your core a bit more, your pain should decrease considerably. Even when the shot wears off.

    I work for a physical therapist who specializes in age related injuries so if you have any specific questions let me know and I’ll try to get you some answers.

    • Diane says:

      How sweet of you! Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind if I have bursitis questions. So far, shots and exercises seem to be the recommended remedies, thankfully. The easy exercises are starting to work. I think what happened is, when I had the shot last time I was merrily overworking the muscles without knowing it because I was pain-free! Lesson learned.

      I look forward to reading your related post!

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