What is the Piriformis?
Piriformis is a small muscle in the deep gluteal region that helps with lateral rotation of the lower extremity. The muscle originates on the sacrum and inserts on the femur. The movement of this muscle is important in walking and running. The sciatic nerve runs behind the piriformis and continues from the glute to the leg to supply feeling and sensation.
When damage happens to the piriformis by overuse or trauma it can cause deep gluteal muscle pain at the sight of the piriformis but more frequently it will cause piriformis syndrome. The piriformis can compress the sciatic due to the proximity of the two structures. In some instances, it has been seen that the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle.
Signs and symptoms
When the sciatic nerve gets compressed the patient experiences; numbness, tingling, and a dull pain starting in the buttocks and sometimes ending in the lower calf or foot.
Piriformis syndrome can normally be diagnosed from a patient’s physical and history of the pain. To rule out other causes of the sciatic pain MRI imaging can be performed, but not always necessary.
Rest – to allow for the piriformis muscle to heal and swelling to decrease
Stretching and range of motion exercises – reduce pressure on the nerve
Massage – to release the muscle spasm
Ice/heat – to decrease swelling and increase circulation
With proper treatment piriformis syndrome will subside in about 4 weeks. Regular stretching can delay the onset of Piriformis Syndrome from returning.
Illustration credit: http://dailyvitamoves.com/sciatic-nerve-pain-relief-releasing-tight-piriformis/