What is Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle causes compression of the sciatic nerve. There are a wide variety of activities that can cause the piriformis muscle to tighten and pinch the sciatic nerve. Sitting for long periods of time can irritate the piriformis muscle as can jogging, running and lifting weights.
Compression of the sciatic nerve causes sciatica – a painful condition that can include gluteal pain, back pain and in some cases pain and weakness all the way down your leg. Piriformis syndrome is a frequent contributor to the symptoms of low back pain.
How Do We Get Piriformis Syndrome
Before we discuss piriformis syndrome we have to take a look at the anatomy of the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle allows the sciatic nerve to pass through your buttocks and into your leg. The piriformis is a small, flat muscle that spans from your sacrum to the lateral part of your femur bone. This muscle is found in the buttocks and when it contracts it rotates your leg externally. The piriformis muscle is important in lower body movements because it helps stabilize the hip joint and is critical in allowing us to walk and maintain balance. This muscle is used in sports that require lifting and rotational movements of the hips and thighs.
Regardless of which activities aggravated the piriformis muscle, it is important for you to identify those activities and eliminate or restrict them. The first rule of recovery from an irritated spasmed muscle is to stop annoying it – this rule includes the piriformis muscle. Active treatment at home includes stretching the piriformis muscle. One of my favorite stretches is demonstrated in the photo below.
In most cases, sciatic pain is often accompanied by spinal misalignments as well as irritated sacroiliac joints. Chiropractic care will relieve pressure on pinched nerves that are contributing to your symptoms. Treatment with a chiropractor will also relieve back pain and initiate a reflexive relaxation effect on the piriformis muscle that will speed your recovery.