Paspa Physical Therapy

Piriformis Syndrome:
How Physical Therapy Can Help

Piriformis syndrome is a painful condition that can affect many aspects of your everyday life.

People with piriformis syndrome find simple activities like walking, running, squatting, and sitting for long periods more difficult to perform than usual.

An appointment with an experienced physical therapist is crucial for identifying piriformis muscle pain and ruling out other conditions in the lower body.

Physical therapist putting ice pack on female patient to alleviate piriformis syndrome symptoms.

What Is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome stems from pain in your piriformis, one of the external rotators of the hip that runs from the spine in the lowermost vertebrae in the lower back to the top of the femur bones in each leg.

The piriformis is a band-like muscle located deep in the gluteal region or buttocks that assists the hip joint in turning the leg outward.

When the piriformis muscle is irritated, lower-body movement in the legs becomes painful.

The piriformis muscle crosses through the sciatic notch in the pelvic bone near the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome symptoms are often associated with sciatica pain because of this.

Common Causes of Piriformis Syndrome

There are many causes of piriformis muscle buttocks pain.

Piriformis syndrome is more common in females than males, but it can happen to anyone at any age.

It is also often seen in athletes or gym-goers that repeat the same motions in the hips regularly. 

Patients can develop piriformis syndrome or aggravate existing piriformis syndrome due to the following:

  • Misalignment of the lumbar spine, which is seen in deformities like scoliosis or kyphosis
  • Trauma to the pelvic bone area from exercise or sports injury
  • Issues in the hip abductors that cause the piriformis muscle to over-compensate
  • Blood flow restriction caused by prolonged sitting
  • Overtraining, poor training habits, and lower extremity alignment issues

Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome is most often characterized by a sharp, shooting pain starting in the lower back that radiates into the posterior thigh, legs, and feet.

It feels like a dull, deep buttock pain that worsens as certain activities progress. This pain stems from the piriformis muscle’s compression of the sciatic nerve.

Unlike traditional sciatica pain that causes a one-side muscle spasm, piriformis syndrome typically affects patients on both sides of the body.

Common symptoms include a combination of any of the following:

  • Numbness, tingling, and tightness in the legs or pelvis
  • Shooting pain in the buttocks
  • Trouble putting weight on one buttock when sitting
  • Inability to maintain balance when shifting from one leg to the other
  • Difficulty sitting for an extended period
  • Shooting pain in the leg or hamstrings when climbing stairs
  • Problem with internal rotation or range of motion in the hips
  • Intense muscle spasms that can cause loss of bladder control or bowel movements

Piriformis syndrome is very painful for patients. However, therapy treatments for this syndrome are effective in managing symptoms.

At-Home Treatment for Piriformis Syndrome

If piriformis syndrome is affecting your everyday life, don’t worry. Treatment does exist for piriformis syndrome.

Home remedies for immediate relief include using heat and cold packs, stretching, and resting the muscle.

Pain lessens when patients discontinue the activities that irritate the piriformis muscle. These risky activities include running, squatting, lunging, or bicycling.

It is ideal for patients to do more low-impact activities and stretch as much as possible while the muscle heals from agitation.

How Can Physical Therapy Help Piriformis Syndrome?

Therapy through soft tissue mobilization and myofascial release is the most helpful long-term treatment for piriformis muscle spasms.

An exercise program designed by a trained physical therapist will increase the range of motion, alleviate numbness, and relieve tightness in the leg, thigh, and gluteal area.

A physical therapist treating the leg of a patient with piriformis syndrome.

PT can also help the muscle to heal and stop pain from returning so frequently.

During physical therapy, your therapist will do a total body evaluation and will be hands-on in helping develop your treatment plan.

Massage of the hip joint, leg, thigh, and buttocks may be performed throughout treatment with your physical therapist to exercise and stretch the piriformis muscle.

Treatment for advanced piriformis syndrome and sciatic nerve pain does not happen overnight. It can take 4-6 weeks to relieve pain effectively.

Muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs are also used in conjunction with PT to treat piriformis syndrome and sciatic nerve pain.

Piriformis Syndrome Physical Therapy in Manhattan, NY

Because our spine and hip joints are integral to the body’s range of motion, severe pain in these areas can be debilitating for most patients.

Keeping these parts of your body healthy is crucial to living an active and full life.

If you are experiencing sciatic nerve pain or lumbar spine pain radiating in the buttocks, piriformis syndrome could be the cause.

Contact us today to book an appointment with a skilled physical therapist at Paspa Physical Therapy in Manhattan, NY.

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