Piriformis Syndrome

By: Active Sports Therapy

Piriformis syndrome is a condition where the piriformis muscle, located in deep in the buttock, spasms and causes pain. The muscle starts at the lower spine and connects to the top portion of the femur. One other thing to note about the piriformis muscle is that it has great potential to irritate the sciatic nerve, causing numbness, tingling, and pain down the back of the leg right down into a person’s foot.

Causes of Piriformis Syndrome

While the exact cause is sometimes unknown, there are some usual suspects when it comes to identifying why one’s piriformis might begin to spasm and cause issues.

  1. Irritation of the muscle by a nearby structure such as a person’s hip, or their sacroiliac joint.
  2. Swelling of the piriformis muscle cause by injury or a considerable spasm.
  3. Tightening of the muscle for various reasons.

If you are suffering from Piriformis Syndrome, you may experience some or all of the symptoms below:

  1. Sciatica, which is characterized by pain down the back of the thigh, calf, and into the foot.
  2. Pain when walking up hill or upstairs.
  3. You may notice that your pain increases if you sit for long periods of time, go for a run or a long walk.
  4. Your hip might feel tight and lack its normal flexibility and range of motion.

Piriformis Stretches

There are a few key stretches that can help to stretch out and relax the piriformis muscle. In addition to these below, focus some time on also stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors.

  1. Lying on your back, place both feet on the floor with both knees bent. Pull one knee up to your chest grasping it with the opposite hand and pulling your knee gently toward the opposite shoulder. ie you’re pulling your right knee toward your left shoulder using the left hand. Alternate sides and work your way up to holding for 30 seconds. You might only be able to hold for 5-10 seconds at first, but aim to increase the count each day. It will get easier!
  2. For the next stretch, again lay on your back with both knees up. Cross your right leg over so that your right ankle rests on the left knee. Pull your left thigh toward your chest and hold for 30 seconds.

If you suspect you might have piriformis syndrome, it’s important to see your doctor or chiropractor to be properly assessed so that you can begin a course of treatment immediately. Treatments might include deep tissue massage, IMS, active release therapy, TENS, Shockwave Therapy, and physical therapy. Injections are sometimes prescribed as well when the issue is more severe.

Please get in touch here if you are looking for help. Our team will be happy to setup an appointment for you. The earlier you start treatment, the sooner you’ll see results!

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

Treating Piriformis Syndrome

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By: Dr. Corey Finan BSc., DC, CCSP, RMT, ART

In order to properly treat piriformis syndrome, it is important to understand that the piriformis muscle is either spasming, or is inflamed.  Both situations can cause their own problems.  If you are getting numbness down your leg, the muscle is probably spasmed.  A spasmed muscle can cause local pain as well, so hip pain with numbness down the leg is a very common presentation of piriformis syndrome.  An inflamed muscle will cause the sciatic nerve that sits in close proximity to it to also get inflamed in some cases.  When this occurs, you will typically feel pain in the hip along with a burning pain radiating down your leg.

Understanding which situation is causing your particular symptoms can allow your practitioner to accurately treat it.  For example, a spasmed muscle will require work on the muscle to relax it, and techniques such as Active Release, Shockwave Therapy (in chronic cases), deep tissue massage and even Dry Needling (IMS) can help.  These all work to relax the spasm.  Home stretching would also be of benefit.

Active Release Techniques or ART is the gold standard for soft tissue treatment and is extremely effective at treating piriformis syndrome.  The practitioner starts with your muscle in a shortened position, and your leg is then moved to bring the muscle into a lengthened position while the doctor’s thumb tensions the muscle in the direction opposite to the muscle.  Think of a string with beads on it.  If you want to remove the beads, you would place your thumb beside the bead, and pull on the string.  The shear force generated unwinds the tightened muscle, causing the release of tension.  Hence the name Active Release.

Shockwave Therapy utilizes a compressive pulse of air that generates a shockwave to disrupt the muscle and create a release of tension.  It is the equivalent to about 5 times a normal ultrasound wave.  Thus it is a significant pulse created into the soft tissues of the hip to cause the spasm to decrease.  It is great for chronic conditions, but is ineffective for new injuries.

Dry needling can be used to release the spasm from the inside out.  Using an acupuncture needle, the practitioner can insert the needle right into the spasmed part of the muscle causing a local twitch response that in effect resets the electrical tone of the muscle back to the baseline, causing a release in the muscle tension.  It can be fast and effective, but it does not lengthen the muscle like Active Release does, so you run the risk of the spasm coming back again.

Deep tissue massage is great at releasing muscle spasms through active massaging of the affected muscle, and if a stretch component is added by the therapist it can be very effective.  It is considered a passive treatment, and unfortunately if the muscle is not also lengthened, then the same results as dry needling can occur where the spasm recurs.

If the muscle is inflamed, then things change somewhat in regards to care.  First and foremost, Active Release can still be performed to help release the muscle tightness or inflammation, and cause increased blood flow, oxygen flow and create and environment for healing.  On top of active release, low intensity laser can be extremely helpful in reducing the inflammation.  If it is badly inflamed, we can also bring in the game ready ice compression machine which will circulate near freezing water through a compressive cuff (similar to a blood pressure cuff) and cool down the hip muscles removing deep and/or plentiful inflammation.

Any and all of the following treatments for Piriformis Syndrome can be found at AST.  If you are suffering from piriformis syndrome quit suffering and give us a call.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]