What is piriformis syndrome?

The piriformis muscle is a muscle located in the buttocks. This muscle extends from the base of the spine to the thigh. The piriformis muscle can become tight and in turn place pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can cause buttock pain, spasms, pins and needles and a shooting pain sensation into the buttocks, hips and often down the thigh and leg. The sciatic nerve runs from the lumbar spine down to the feet and is the largest nerve in the human body.


Symptoms of piriformis syndrome can include pain and sensitivity in the buttocks, most commonly only on one side of the body. Intense pain running down the back of the leg, hamstring, calves and into your feet can also occur. Often people suffering with piriformis syndrome think that they have an issue with the hamstring, but the primary symptom is localized tenderness in the hip or buttocks.


Locating the cause of muscle tension or spasms is very difficult, but some of the common causes include:
a. Impact (falls, sporting injuries or vehicle accidents)
b. Fatigue (over-exercising or stretching)
c. Immobility (desk bound, sedentary lifestyle)
d. Muscle wasting
e. Pregnancy

Piriformis syndrome is not a common neuromuscular condition and is caused when the piriformis muscle places pressure on the sciatic nerve. This affects the stability of the hip joint and can cause significant pain when walking, lifting our shifting your body from one hip to another or from one foot to another. It can also significantly inhibit sports that involve lifting and rotating the thighs.

This condition is often missed or misdiagnosed as lumbar radiculopathy, sacroiliitis, sciatica or sacral dysfunction just to name a few. The research suggests that approximately six (6) percent of patients diagnosed with low-back pain are actually suffering from piriformis syndrome.


There are only a handful of treatments available for suffers of piriformis syndrome. The first and, unfortunately, the most common is the pharmaceutical option such as pain killers, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, Botox or injections. This is understandable, taking into consideration the intense pain this condition can cause but drugs can only disguise the pain and will not treat the cause of the condition.

Massage, alternating hot and cold and stretching can help manage the pain. However, addressing piriformis syndrome long term, chiropractic could be the most effective treatment option. The chiropractor looks at the whole body and understands that your pain may be radiating from your thigh but knows that many other factors can be affecting the piriformis. The chiropractor treats each patient differently depending on their findings and ongoing progress exams. This allows for a more individualized treatment plan and greater attention to altering said treatment plan when needed. If you have any pain or concerns with your lower back, hips or legs, why not come see if we can help you?

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