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Spine Care

Piriformis syndrome

Your piriformis muscle runs from your lower spine to the top of your thigh bone. This muscle is important in lower body movement because it stabilizes the hip joint and lifts and rotates the thigh away from the body.

Piriformis syndrome occurs when this muscle presses on your sciatic nerve (the nerve that goes from your spinal cord to your buttocks and down the back of each leg). This can cause pain and numbness in your lower body.

Is piriformis syndrome the same as sciatica ?

Both sciatica and piriformis syndrome can cause symptoms in your lower back, buttock, and/or leg, but their underlying causes are different. Sciatica is a set of symptoms, caused when a medical condition, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, irritates or compresses one or more spinal nerve roots in your lower spine.

What are the causes? 

Injuring or irritating the piriformis muscle can cause muscle spasms.The muscle may also swell or tighten from the spasms. This puts pressure on the nerve beneath it, causing pain.

  • Trauma
  • Overused of piriformis muscle
  • Sitting for long periods
  • Over exercising
  • Running, walking, or doing other repetitive activities
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Muscle tightness
What are the signs and symptoms?
  • tenderness and pain deep in the buttock muscles.
  • Pain may radiate down the back of the leg into the hamstring muscles and sometimes even into the calf area.
  • pain gets worse during activities that cause the piriformis muscle to press against the sciatic nerve, such as sitting, walking up stairs, or running.

The pain usually affects just one side of the lower body. But it can also occur on both sides at the same time.

What are the treatment options?

Self-care tips for piriformis syndrome include the following:

  • Temporarily stop doing activities that cause pain
  • If you have to sit for a long period of time, take regular breaks to walk around and stretch.
  • Use cold packs and warm packs.
  • Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (also called an NSAID
  • Do exercises to stretch the piriformis muscle.

If home remedies are not working well for you , you may need to contact a medical profession such as physiotherapist.

What can I expect from a physiotherapist? 

After a thorough assessment of your back, pelvis and hips, your physiotherapist will determine the cause of your pain.

Once your diagnosis is established, treatment could involve any of the following:

  • Pelvis and spine re-alignment techniques.
  • Joint mobilisation to restore normal joint mobility, the range of motion and function.
  • Massage or electrotherapy to help decrease pain and spasm in your piriformis and increase blood flow plus soft tissue extensibility.
  • Stretching program for muscle length and flexibility

It is possible to prevent some individuals from getting piriformis syndrome by avoiding overuse of and trauma to the low back/gluteal muscles. It is also possible to prevent recurrence of the syndrome by patient compliance with stretching and flexibility training and exercises.