Piriformis syndrome is not a very common condition. It causes pain in the buttocks and down the leg. To better understand this condition, here are piriformis syndrome causes and treatments.
Piriformis Syndrome Causes
To understand piriformis syndrome, we first need to understand the piriformis muscle. This muscle is a stabilizing muscle that runs from the sacrum (located at the base of the spine and connected to the pelvis), beneath the gluteus maximus, the main muscle in our buttocks that we often refer to simply as “glutes”, and attaches to the side of the upper thigh. This muscle lies deep within the buttock and helps the hip rotate laterally, outwards. It also helps abducting the femur when the hip is flexed.
The sciatic nerve runs down from the lumbar area and passes through the pelvis beneath the piriformis muscle and down the back of the leg. The sciatic nerve runs so close to the piriformis muscle that in some individuals it passes not only beneath the piriformis muscle but also through it. There are also less common anatomical variations where the complete sciatic nerve goes through the muscle or above it.
As with other nerves in the body, any compression along the sciatic nerve can cause symptoms. Therefore, when the piriformis muscle is either tight, spasmed or inflamed, it may compress and irritate the nearby sciatic nerve, causing the symptoms. This is the reason that symptoms are similar to the symptoms of sciatica. The syndrome is often misdiagnosed and thought to be a condition of the lumbar spine. However, with piriformis syndrome, there is often little or no back pain, but mostly buttock pain.
Causes for piriformis syndrome may include prolonged sitting, spasms or tightening of the piriformis muscle, overuse of the muscle especially in certain athletic activities, trauma to the area, and anatomical variations. Also, there are cases of piriformis syndrome in pregnancy.
Piriformis Syndrome Symptoms
The syndrome may have different symptoms that are generally characterized by pain in the buttock and hip area. Symptoms may include numbness, tingling, and weakness starting in the buttocks and sometimes radiating down the back of the thigh and further down. In many cases, symptoms worsen when sitting or running since the muscle is used in both cases. Unfortunately, this means that we observe more cases of piriformis syndrome in runners and other athletes that repeatedly stress the piriformis muscles.
Piriformis Syndrome Treatment
Treatment of piriformis syndrome may include physical therapy, stretching exercises, injections, medication, and surgery in extreme cases. As part of piriformis pain treatment, it is often advised to avoid activities that trigger pain.
Piriformis pain relief may be achieved with local treatment. For example, piriformis muscle release can be helped with massage or trigger point needling. Also, ice and heat may be helpful for piriformis muscle treatment.
For chronic piriformis syndrome treatment, pain relief is important. Technological advancements in the medical field allow for better self-help devices at home for piriformis pain relief. Devices such as Solio Alfa Plus, the first RF FDA-cleared pain relief device for home use, are both safe and effective, as well as noninvasive. The device uses specific wavelengths and bipolar RF for deep heating that can alleviate pain as well as create an optimal healing environment. In addition, if you feel inflammation, Solio enhances the body’s natural healing mechanisms to fight inflammation and reduce muscle aches and pain.
As for prevention, as the syndrome is usually caused by repeated activities or movements that affect the piriformis muscle, good posture may help to prevent it.