Piriformis syndrome is characterized by lower back pain, pelvic pain, pain in the buttocks or hips, and/or sciatica. The main player is a muscle called the piriformis, which is seated in the buttocks region and attaches from the tailbone to the bone thighbone. Like any muscle, it can get short and tight, but its distinction is that it sits on top of the sciatica nerve. Being the longest and thickest nerve in the body, the sciatica nerve is easily pinched by a short, tight piriformis muscle. I have provided some more information about piriformis syndrome below!
Any nerve pain is intense, but what you get with sciatica is a burning, electrical pain down your leg. It’s usually enough pain to cause your leg to be limp. Sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome may irritate just about everything; walking, sitting, lying down. Unfortunately, painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs don’t relieve the pain caused by piriformis syndrome. Not all cases of piriformis syndrome cause sciatica, some cause buttock and hip pain only, while others include low back pain.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the syndrome is that it is almost always worse with sitting. This is because when we sit we do so right on top of the piriformis muscle.
As mentioned above, a short, tight piriformis muscle may cause piriformis syndrome. So why does the piriformis muscle get short and tight? Lets find out! Short, tight muscles can come about from a few different situations, lack of stretching, weak synergistic or antagonistic muscles, chronic subluxation, and foot dysfunction. Every one of these scenarios is reversible; there, piriformis syndrome may be a correctable disorder.
Below is a list of causes of piriformis syndrome:
- Inflexibility: We need to stretch to maintain a functional muscle length. Short, tight muscles can cause a number of problems including joint dysfunction, circulation problems, poor posture, and as in the case of piriformis syndrome, nerve entrapment.
- Weak Muscles: With this syndrome, the weak muscles are typically the gluteal muscles. The gluteus maximus is the main muscles of walking, and it extends the hip. It can become lazy and some individuals, when it does other muscles have to compensate for its weakness. The piriformis is a compensatory muscle.
- Chronic Subluxation: This is a constant join pain with neurological implications. Subluxations hamper free movement and can cause nerve pain and/or dysfunction.
- Foot Dysfunction: This is one of the most common causes of piriformis syndrome. It can be caused by an excessive rolling-in of the feet as a result of dropped arches. In this case, the piriformis works overtime to counter the inward movement of the leg.
If you are suffering from piriformis syndrome or experiencing symptoms of the syndrome, you should contact your doctor immediately. Piriformis syndrome can be a real pain in the butt! Remember piriformis syndrome is treatable, so get treatment before it gets worse!