Today, we’re partnering up with the NASM, or the National Academy of Sports Medicine, to tell you all about Piriformis Syndrome.
Click here to check out the NASM’s full blog post, Piriformis Syndrome: It’s a pain in the butt, and hips, and leg…
I personally love that blog title, it is completely accurate to where piriformis pain can be felt!
So, your piriformis is a small muscle located towards the center of your buttocks. Just as the picture above dictates, the piriformis muscle assists in rotating your hip and turning your leg and foot outwards.
Fun fact: 20% of the population, the sciatic nerves runs THROUGH the piriformis muscle. Thus becoming irritated more easily!
See the photo below for an example of both:
So piriformis syndrome is when your piriformis muscle spasms and causes pain in your buttocks. But that’s not all that it can do. Going back to that sciatic nerve that we were talking about earlier, that spasming piriformis muscle can also irritate the sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness and/or tingling down the back of your leg and into your foot!
The direct cause of piriformis syndrome is actually unknown, but some suspected causes include:
- Muscle spasm in the piriformis muscle, either because of irritation in the piriformis muscle itself, or irritation of a nearby structure such as the sacroiliac joint or hip
- Tightening of the muscle, in response to injury or spasm
- Swelling of the piriformis muscle, due to injury or spasm
- Bleeding in the area of the piriformis muscle
Piriformis syndrome is a pain the butt, in the hips, in the leg…
The most common symptom of piriformis syndrome is acute tenderness in the buttock and sciatica-like pain down the back of the thigh, calf and foot. More symptoms include:
- Pain when walking up stairs of inclines
- Increased pain after prolonged sitting
- Reduced range of motion of the hip joint
Now that we know what piriformis syndrome is, and what is feels like, how do you treat it?
Of course, we recommend seeing a doctor or physical therapist to have a comprehensive exam and exercise program created for your own individual situation.
But stretching exercises are always helpful!
- Lie on the back with both feet flat on the floor and both knees bent. Pull the right knee up to the chest, grasp the knee with the left hand and pull it towards the left shoulder and hold the stretch. Repeat for each side.
- Lie on the back with both feet flat on the floor and both knees bent. Rest the ankle of the right leg over the knee of the left leg. Pull the left though toward the chest and hold the stretch. Repeat for each side.
Each piriformis stretch should be held for 5 seconds to start, and gradually increased to hold for 30 seconds, and repeated three times each day.
- Place two chairs back each other. Sit on one chair and pace the heel of one leg on the other chair. Lean forward, bending at the hips until a gentle stretch along the back of the thigh is felt, and hold the stretch.
- Lie on the back with both legs straight. Pull one leg up and straighten by holding on to a towel that is wrapped behind the foot until a mild stretch along the back of the thigh is felt.
Again, try to work up to holding each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times each day.
**You can also check out the exercises and stretches provided on the NASM website! Click here now!
In addition to basic stretching, a doctor or physical therapist can give you range of motion exercises and do deep massage. Other treatment may also include:
- ice packs and ice massage
- heat therapy
- Medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Piriformis injections
- Botox injections
- Electrotherapy – electrical stimulation
Piriformis syndrome can be a real pain, but there is help out there. Always remember to never self-diagnose and to see a doctor or physical therapist if you have any of the above symptoms!
You can also click here to check out this video from Spine-Health to learn about piriformis syndrome!