What is Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis Syndrome is a disorder resulting from when the small piriformis muscle within your glute muscles irritates the sciatic nerve. The large sciatic nerve runs right next to (or even occasionally through in some people) the piriformis muscle. When the piriformis irritates the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain, numbness or tingling in the glute and down the back of the leg. Piriformis syndrome is often misdiagnosed as sciatica due to how similarly the two present symptoms.
What causes Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is caused when the piriformis is inflamed or extra tight (muscle spasm) – leading to irritation of the neighboring sciatic nerve. Prolonged sitting (like at work or driving) or sitting on hard chairs on a regular basis can often lead to irritation of the piriformis muscle. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, long distance running or prolonged standing/walking can lead to tightening of the piriformis muscle. Occasionally, direct trauma to the area (i.e. falling on your butt) may cause piriformis syndrome as well.
How Do I Treat Piriformis Syndrome?
The goal in treating piriformis syndrome is to decrease the pain/inflammation in the piriformis and sciatic nerve and loosen up the piriformis muscle. Avoiding the activity that caused the pain (i.e. prolonged sitting, distance running) is a good first step. Gentle massage (either by hand or massage gun), ice, heat or laser therapy can help manage the pain and help the piriformis relax. You’ll want to stretch the piriformis and surrounding glute muscles as well to relax any muscle spasms contributing to the pain. For more intense or chronic piriformis syndrome, chiropractors or physical therapists are well equipped to eliminate the pain.