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Why Do I Have Piriformis Syndrome?

Dec4th 2020

Piriformis Syndrome can be caused by a number of different reasons. Causes can range from excessive sitting to the other extreme of overusing the piriformis muscle with long-distance walking or running. The result is the same though; the piriformis irritates the underlying sciatic nerve. This irritated nerve can cause pain, numbness, and tingling sensation in the back, buttock, hip, or leg.

I’ve recently taken up running or another athletic activity and now have piriformis syndrome. Should I just push through the pain?

No. Pushing through the pain can lead to increased symptoms and a prolonging of the time it takes to recover from a flare-up. Although it is great that you’ve decided to become more active, your body needs a little bit of time to physically progress with your aspirations. Easing into an activity and gradually increasing the intensity helps your body acclimate to the new demands placed on it. A proper warm-up and stretching are also key to prevent flare-ups.

I think I have piriformis syndrome, but my thigh/calf/foot also hurts. Do I have something else wrong with me?

Because the sciatic nerve is being irritated in piriformis syndrome, anything the sciatic nerve innervates in the leg can also feel painful. Physical therapists are trained to tease out if any other pain you are feeling in your leg is due to piriformis syndrome or if there is another factor at play that is contributing to your symptoms. Other factors can include a compensation of how you walk due to pain, other tight muscles in the hips and legs, or other medical diagnoses.

Can piriformis syndrome cause back pain?

Yes. A tight piriformis muscle can cause an over-strain of other muscles in the pelvis and low back. The pelvis and back muscles depend on one another for optimal movement. When one muscle is tight, injured, or weak, other muscles often have to take up the workload to compensate and become aggravated in the process. This can lead to pain in other areas such as the low back.

What can physical therapists do to help relieve the symptoms of piriformis syndrome?

Therapists at ProTailored Physical Therapy will evaluate and implement a custom plan to address the underlying issues related to your piriformis syndrome. Treatment approaches may include stretching, strengthening, techniques to allow the sciatic nerve to glide more easily, modalities, and posture correction. Therapists will also educate you on proper warm-up and stretching techniques to prevent a recurrence of the syndrome.

What is the outcome for people who have piriformis syndrome?

Most people who have piriformis syndrome will recover. What can vary is how long you deal with piriformis syndrome. Seeking help from a physical therapist can greatly increase your recovery time and decrease the intensity of symptoms. Additionally, slight modifications of activities may be necessary in order to prevent a recurrence of symptoms.