What Causes Piriformis Syndrome?
Your piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint.
It connects the lowermost vertebrae with the upper part of the leg after traveling the “sciatic notch,” the opening in your pelvic bone that allows the sciatic nerve to travel into the leg.
This muscle is important in your lower body movement because it stabilizes the hip joint and lifts and rotates the thigh away from the body, enabling you to walk, shift your weight from one foot to another, and maintain balance.
It’s used in almost every motion of the hips and legs.
The proximity of your piriformis muscle to the sciatic nerve is why issues can develop.
When the sciatic nerve is irritated, pain and other symptoms occur.
It’s estimated that about 5% of cases of sciatica are due to piriformis syndrome.
Some common causes include:
- Abnormal development or location of the piriformis muscle
- Abnormal development or location of the sciatic nerve
- Leg-length discrepancy
- Prior hip surgery
- Unusually vigorous exercise
- Foot problems, including Morton’s Neuroma
In many cases, the cause cannot be identified.
Who’s at Risk To Develop Piriformis Syndrome?
Anyone can develop piriformis syndrome, and it’s not based on age.
However, it’s not known why, but females are more likely to be affected by this disorder than men by a ratio of 6:1. It could be due to anatomical differences.
There are two groups of people who could be more likely to develop this condition based on their activities, or lack thereof:
- Those who sit for extended periods
Athletes, especially those who repeat the same motions over and over — such as lunging or running — are at higher risk of compressing the sciatic nerve.
If you’re in this category, the best way to prevent this syndrome is to always practice correct form and complete proper warming up and cooling down exercises.
On the other hand, those who live sedentary lifestyles or hold occupations that require sitting for a majority of the time are also at risk to develop piriformis syndrome. This can put undue pressure on the nerve.
If this is you, it’s important to walk, stretch, and take adequate breaks from sitting in the same position. It’s also recommended to not sit for long periods with a wallet or something bulky in your back pocket.