Piriformis Syndrome: A Pain in the Butt

Hip Surgery

Hip Surgery

Piriformis Syndrome Causing You To Sacrifice Your Independence As You Age?

This is an important question that we begin to ask ourselves when we start to hurt and ache in the hip and glute area with sitting or walking.

When a patient comes to our clinic for an evaluation for their hip pain, we like to take a second and ask them to think about their favorite activities. So let’s take a second to think about yours…

Lately, the unrelenting pain in your hip has made it difficult to go on, so you end up switching things up – singles tennis to doubles, or from full-court basketball to half court.

Pretty soon, the pain grows so bad that you end up sacrificing your favorite activity altogether. You dread seeing a specialist because you’re concerned that they will say you need a hip replacement. And that will take you out of activity completely, right?

Well, there are other options than a complete hip replacement.

The Piriformis Muscle

Although small in size, the Piriformis muscle can have a huge impact on how smooth the body’s movements are. It’s the fundamental muscle that makes walking and balance possible. You may be surprised to hear that addressing an overactive piriformis can be part of the solution!

The piriformis is a small muscle that sits on the front surface of the tailbone area and attaches to the top of the big leg bone near the hip.

It plays a huge role in stabilizing the hip and pelvis when the foot is on the ground and allows the thigh to rotate on the body when the foot is off the ground.

It’s important to realize that in most people, the sciatic nerve rests underneath this muscle, but in about 15% of the population, the sciatic nerve passes through the muscle.

Piriformis Syndrome Diagnosis

Piriformis Syndrome has traditionally been described as a pain caused by spasms of the piriformis muscle. Pain with sitting is common; As well as pain with raising the knee up in front and the foot off the ground or standing on one leg.

Things like sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, traveling often, or commuting long distances for work can often become a daily struggle for someone who suffers from Piriformis Syndrome.

Piriformis Syndrome can make even these everyday tasks an inconvenience.

Although the symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome are quite easy to identify, the reason why the piriformis is in spasm is often unknown and confusing.

Who’s Most Likely To Suffer From Piriformis Syndrome?

Now going back to whether or not the sciatic nerve goes underneath or through the muscle, those people with an irregular sciatic route through the muscle are more inclined to suffer from piriformis syndrome.

Those who sit on hard seats often or for long periods of time, commuters who get pain when sitting and reaching for the pedals, and people with chronic low back pain.

Luckily, there are techniques that we have in place to decrease and reduce the pain caused by Piriformis Syndrome.

Piriformis Stretch

Taking the time to actually stretch the piriformis muscle itself could help immensely. To do so, start by lying flat, either on the floor or on a bed, with both knees straight.

Pull the right knee up to the chest, grasp the knee with the left hand and pull it towards the left shoulder. Now hold for thirty seconds. Repeat three times on each side.

This stretch aims to decrease the painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve and help you return to your desired range of motion.

Gluteus Medius and Piriformis Lacrosse Ball

For this exercise, either a tennis ball, baseball, or lacrosse ball can be used to roll out the glute muscles. Both aim to release the tension in the targeted area. While laying on a flat, sturdy surface, sit on the lacrosse ball with your right cheek- not directly but off to the side.

Take your right leg and cross it over your left knee and begin to make small circular motions. Start by going counterclockwise and then clockwise. This can be performed for two minutes on each side.

Both of these exercises are great for those experiencing hip, glute, and leg pain.

In the end, taking two minutes out of your day to stretch the Piriformis muscle could serve to decrease the pain and get you back to living life.

If you think Piriformis Syndrome explains your hip pain, just follow the link to make a Phone Call or a Discovery Session and let us know about your concerns.

If you want more urgent assistance, call in directly at 623-486-3333 and we will get you scheduled.

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Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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