Piriformis syndrome

Piriformis syndrome is a condition where the piriformis muscle becomes tight or spasms, which leads to the irritation of the sciatic nerve. This will cause pain in the buttocks area and can even result to referred pain in the thigh and lower back. The individual will often complain of pain deep inside the hip and buttocks.

Causes of piriformis syndrome

Piriformis syndrome is mainly caused by the tightening or shortening of the piriformis muscle and even though there are various factors attributed to this, the condition can be categorized into the two major groups – overload and biomechanical inefficiencies.

Overload

Piriformis syndrome

Pain is the characteristic and obvious symptom linked with piriformis syndrome. This is often experienced deep within the buttocks and hip area but can occur in any part of the lower back up to the lower leg.

Piriformis syndrome is usually linked with sports that entail a lot of running, changes in direction or weight bearing such as basketball or soccer. Nevertheless, the syndrome not only affects athletes but also those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Other causes of overload include the following:

  • Exercising on uneven ground or surfaces
  • Exercising on hard surfaces
  • Starting an exercise program after a long period of rest
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Increasing the intensity of an exercise routine or workout or the duration abruptly

Biomechanical inefficiencies

The main biomechanical inefficiencies that contribute to the syndrome include faulty body and foot mechanics, poor posture or sitting habits and gait disturbances. Other causes include spinal issues such as spinal stenosis or herniated disc. Other biomechanical factors include the following:

  • Tight, rigid muscles in the hips, lower back and buttocks
  • Poor walking or running mechanics
  • Walking or running with the toes pointed outwards

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome

Pain is the characteristic and obvious symptom linked with piriformis syndrome. This is often experienced deep within the buttocks and hip area but can occur in any part of the lower back up to the lower leg.

Stiffness, weakness and generalized limitation in movement are also common among those who suffer from piriformis syndrome. In addition, even numbness and tingling in the legs can also occur in some cases.

Treatment

Piriformis syndrome is a soft tissue injury affecting the piriformis muscle and must be managed just like any other soft tissue injury. Right after an injury or at the onset of pain, the RICE method is the commonly used treatment option.

The RICE method must be started for at least the initial 48-72 hours. This will provide the best possible chance for full recovery. The next phase of treatment involves a number of physiotherapy techniques. The application of heat compress as well as massage is highly effective in eliminating scar tissue and speeding up the recovery period of the tendons and muscles.

Once the pain subsides, it is recommended to move on to the rehabilitation period of the treatment. The objective is to restore power, strength, flexibility and endurance of the tendons and muscles that were injured.

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