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Physical Therapy for Piriformis Syndrome – Information, Exercises, and More

You’re experiencing pain from Piriformis Syndrome—possibly severe pain

It could be affecting your life:

  • Socially
  • At home
  • At work

You’re desperate for relief. You’re not alone. 

There are proven ways to help relieve pain associated with Piriformis Syndrome. 

In this article, we’ll share with you what’s causing your pain as well as methods of relief to help you get back to living your best life.

What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Your Piriformis Syndrome (a neuromuscular disorder) developed due to irritation or compression of your sciatic nerve near your piriformis muscle. 

It’s a very painful condition for most patients and can greatly impact your daily life. It can cause pain in the buttocks, hip, lower back, the back of the leg, and even in your foot. 

Your piriformis muscle and your sciatic nerve work together to create this syndrome and cause your pain. 

Keep reading to learn more about this trouble-making team.

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:

  • Injury
  • 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:

  1. Athletes
  2. Those who sit for extended periods of time

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 simply always practice proper 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. 

Piriformis Syndrome Symptoms

The first clue of Piriformis Syndrome is — pain.

The pain is most commonly felt in your lower back or buttocks. It can radiate and travel down the back of the leg to the foot. 

Your pain can be intermittent and may come and go. You may describe your pain as sharp, severe, and radiating. 

Tingling and numbness are also common symptoms. 

One symptom that sets Piriformis Syndrome apart from Sciatica is that Piriformis Syndrome usually has similar pain regarding both sides of the body, whereas Sciatica typically affects one side more than the other. 

Your pain may be triggered while climbing stairs, running, or applying firm pressure directly over the piriformis muscle. Sitting for a long period of time can also trigger your pain. 

A person with Piriformis Syndrome typically has:

  • Difficulty sitting or putting weight on the buttock on one side
  • Muscle spasm of the piriformis muscle
  • Pain in the piriformis muscle during a rectal exam
  • Sciatic-type pain when the hip is moved and rotated outward against resistance

Treatments For Piriformis Syndrome 

Most patients begin with home remedies such as:

  • Ice packs
  • Heat
  • Rest 
  • Avoiding strenuous and repetitive activity

If you’ve tried treating your Piriformis Syndrome at home without relief, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. 

Muscle relaxants are sometimes prescribed for your pain as well. 

Physical therapy is also recommended as a regular course of treatment, as well as osteopathic manipulative treatment

When all else fails, surgery is an option as a last resort. Surgery will adjust the piriformis muscle to take the pressure off the sciatic nerve.

Piriformis Syndrome Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

One of the most popular treatments for Piriformis Syndrome is physical therapy.

Your physical therapist will evaluate your condition and will develop a treatment plan and targeted exercises for Piriformis Syndrome to ease your spasm and pain in the piriformis muscle. 

A physical therapist may begin with heat therapy over the buttocks to help the piriformis muscle relax. 

Other techniques your physical therapist may use include:

  • Ultrasound 
  • Deep massage
  • Soft-tissue mobilization 
  • Stretching exercises

You may also be given stretches and exercises you can perform at home with instructions to be gentle and avoid overdoing it. 

As you progress with your therapy, your therapist may begin to advance your treatment to include:

Best Piriformis Syndrome Exercises

Are you wondering if you can exercise with Piriformis Syndrome at home?

There are several stretches and exercises that your physical therapist may perform for you, and many that you can do at home. These should help to ease and calm down the spasms. 

Some popular stretches include:

  • Knee up stretch
  • Cross arm stretch
  • Standing stretch
  • Sit and bend stretch

Of course, you should also consult your doctor or therapist before performing any stretching techniques for your Piriformis Syndrome. Overstretching or improper form can do more harm than good.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Piriformis Syndrome

If you’re suffering from the severe pain that comes with having Piriformis Syndrome, Motion O.C. can help. 

It’s our passion to help people like yourself who are looking for relief from their pain so they can get back to enjoying their lives. 

We’ve helped many people who are going through the same thing you’re going through. 

You’re not alone. We’ve got your back — literally.

*This information about physical therapy for Piriformis Syndrome was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Give us a call today and let us help you live your best life.

In Motion O.C.