The piriformis muscle is a smaller muscle located deep in the pelvic area, behind the gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the body). The piriformis muscle starts near the lower spine and attaches to the upper portion of the femur. It specifically functions to rotate the hip and turn the leg and foot outward (external rotation). This muscle is crucial to stabilizing the lower body and plays an important role in walking and running.
The piriformis muscle runs at an angle, with the sciatic nerve placed directly underneath it. According to Spine-Health, “piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region, spasms and causes buttock pain. The piriformis muscle can also irritate the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness, and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot (similar to sciatic pain).”
The primary and most reported symptom related to piriformis syndrome is pain, tingling, or numbness in the buttocks. The irritated sciatic nerve which runs behind the piriformis muscle is being compressed, typically by activities such as sitting, walking upstairs, running, or applying pressure to the area.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no definitive test for piriformis syndrome. It is important to note, syndromes are defined by a group of signs or symptoms and are not the same as a disease, which has a defined set of characteristics. Instead, the term “syndrome” is applied whenever all other diseases have been excluded and there is no other logical diagnosis. Therefore, it is important to see your doctor or a physical therapist in order to begin treatment.
WebMD suggests that “if pain is caused by sitting or certain activities, try to avoid positions that trigger pain. Rest, ice, and heat may help relieve symptoms. A doctor or physical therapist can suggest a program of exercises and stretches to help reduce sciatic nerve compression. Osteopathic manipulative treatment has been used to help relieve pain and increase range of motion. Some healthcare providers may recommend anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, or injections with a corticosteroid or anesthetic.”