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What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome arises when the sciatic nerve gets compressed as it passes underneath a deep muscle in your buttock called the piriformis. Your piriformis muscle attaches from the lowest part of your spine (sacrum) and travels across diagonally to your hip. The muscle primarily functions to assist in rotating the hip and turning the leg and foot outward.

In most people, the sciatic nerve travels deep beneath the piriformis muscle. When your piriformis muscle is irritated or goes into spasm, it may cause painful compression of your sciatic nerve. Approximately one-fourth of the population is more likely to suffer from piriformis syndrome because their sciatic nerve passes through the muscle.

The on-set of Piriformis syndrome may begin suddenly as a result of an injury or may develop slowly in response to repeated irritation. Common causes of piriformis irritation or spasms can result from a strain, a fall onto the buttocks, or catch oneself from a “near fall.”

In other instances, the process may begin following repetitive microtraumas such as long distance walking, stair climbing or sitting on the edge of a hard surface or a wallet. In many cases, a specific triggering event cannot be pinpointed. The condition is most common in 40-60-year-olds and affects women more often than men.

Piriformis Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include pain, numbness or tingling that begins in your buttock and radiates along the course of your sciatic nerve toward your foot. Symptoms often increase when you are sitting or standing in one position for longer than 15-20 minutes. Changing positions may provide temporary relief. You may notice that your symptoms increase when you walk, run, climb stairs, ride in a car, sit cross-legged or get up from a chair.

Sciatic arising from piriformis syndrome is one of the most treatable varieties and is relieved by the type of treatment provided in our office. Treatment for Piriformis syndrome includes stretching, myofascial release, and correction of underlying biomechanical dysfunction.

You may need to temporarily limit activities that aggravate the piriformis muscle, including hill and stair climbing, walking on uneven surfaces, intense downhill running or twisting and throwing objects backward, i.e., firewood. Be sure to avoid sitting on one foot and take frequent breaks from prolonged standing, sitting and car rides.