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Piriformis Syndrome

Updated on August 11, 2010

This Hub will give you all the information you need on Piriformis Syndrome. From what it is, to diagnosis and treatment; you'll find everything here in a clear and concise manner.

Where the sciatic nerve affects
Where the sciatic nerve affects

What is it?

Piriformis Syndrome is a nueromuscular disorder that occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or possibly irritated by the piriformis muscle (in the gluteal region situated partly within the pelvis and partly at the back of the hip-joint) causing pain, tingling or numbness is the buttocks and even down the legs.This pain is exacerbated with prolonged activity, walking or sitting for extended periods of time.

Who may the syndrome effect?

Essentially the syndrome can effect anyone and can suddenly flair up at anytime. However studies have shown that 15-30% of the population have their sciatic nerve passing through the piriformis muscle rather than underneath it and it is these people that are at greater risk from having the syndrome.

The syndrome can also occur due to overuse, from activities that are performed while in a sitting position while strenuously using the legs e.g. cycling and rowing. Furthermore, any athlete engaging in a forward-moving activity e.g. running is more susceptible if they do not properly stretch after and before exercise.

Example of a stretch
Example of a stretch

How is it diagnosed?

A first indication of the syndrome is sciatica (pain radiating from the buttock, thigh and lower leg) with this most people will visit their doctor who will conduct a physical exam aiming to finding tenderness around the area of the sciatic notch. During a physical examination the doctor will try to compress the sciatic nerve to try to provoke the pain and confirm a cause. Within this process the doctor will also try to exclude any other medical conditions or injuries such as sprains which could be causing the pain.

How can it be treated?

Usually treatment may involve non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or muscle relaxants. However there are other alternative treatments such as stretching exercises and massage as well as avoiding any activity which may contribute to the syndrome e.g. running, cycling or rowing.There are further treatments that can be done at home such as applying heat packs or ice packs to the area when pain first occurs as a means of reducing it instantly.

Stretching exercises aim to target the piriformis muscle along with the hamstrings and hip muscle in a bid to reduce pain and increase the amount of motion.

If these treatments don't work then various treatments with therapeutic injections may be considered.  However the prognosis is generally good with most people receiving the appropriate treatment for them.


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