Piriformis Syndrome: A Real Pain in the Butt

The piriformis is a small muscle located at the back of the hip.  The sciatic nerve passes beneath the piriformis muscle, which can cause referred neural pain from pressure of the piriformis on the sciatic nerve.

This may result in pain in the butt, hip or leg when sitting, or more specifically when the hip is flexed, adducted and internally rotated.  This kind of pain can be especially damaging since it can affect the rest of your movements.  Inefficient movement patterns can have a domino effect, causing pain in other areas of your body, like your knees or lower back.  Understanding the cause of your pain is critical for treating it and solving the problem.

To alleviate piriformis pain you can increase flexibility of the hip.  You can perform a piriformis muscle stretch by holding your knee with the opposite hand and pulling it across your body.  The hip flexors are typically shortened from prolonged sitting. To stretch the hip flexors you can kneel, tucking your pelvis to stretch the front of the hip.

Strengthening hips and glutes also helps reduce pressure from the area.  There are many ways to strengthen the hips and glutes, but starting with bridges is a good beginner exercise that you can make more challenging as you progress.  You can also try these bodyweight glute exercises.

Stretching and strengthening will help you reduce pain and tension in the muscles of your hip, reducing tension and stress on the sciatic nerve.  Foam rolling and massage can also help reduce the tension in this area.  Ease into activity slowly so you don’t do too much too fast.  If your pain increases, stop the activity and consult with a physical therapist.

If you think you have piriformis syndrome, or would like help developing an exercise routine call 410.381.1574 to schedule or email us for more information.

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