What is Piriformis Syndrome?

In somewhat more uncommon circumstances, your sciatic nerve pain and symptoms can be caused by Piriformis Syndrome.

The piriformis muscle is found in the buttocks around the top of your hip joint.  This band-like, flat muscle is responsible for rotating the thigh and stabilizing the hip joint.  Without this muscle, we would be unable to maintain balance, shift our weight from leg to leg, or even walk.  It is necessary for every movement that involves rotating or lifting the thighs, such as sports and exercise.  Any motion that uses the hips or legs relies on the piriformis muscle.

Sometimes, spasms of this muscle can lead to compression of the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve goes through the piriformis muscle and runs alongside it.  The sciatic nerve travels down the back of your leg before splitting into smaller nerves in your feet.  When the piriformis muscle spasms, it can cause a lot of problems with your sciatic nerve.

Is your Pain Piriformis Syndrome?

It may be hard to differentiate between sciatic pain and piriformis syndrome. The two conditions share many symptoms, but piriformis syndrome generally involves pain, numbness or tingling of the buttocks.  The pain can be quite severe and may run the entire length of the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica.  Pain and discomfort are caused by the piriformis muscle’s compression of the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome symptoms are often worsened by sitting, climbing a flight of stairs, or pressure applied to the piriformis muscle.

While there is no test that will specifically pinpoint piriformis syndrome, the diagnosis can be made when the pain is accompanied by a history of vigorous and repetitive motions such as prolonged sitting or long-distance running.  A physical exam will revolve around the reactions of the patient when the doctor uses a specific series of movements to imitate the pain in the piriformis muscle.  At times, the muscle itself will appear tender and contracted during the exam.

Because the symptoms of piriformis syndrome can mimic other conditions that cause compression of the sciatic nerve like disc herniation, your chiropractor may order additional tests like an MRI.

Your Chiropractic Examination

Your chiropractor will evaluate your pelvis, spine, and muscles when assessing your risk of piriformis syndrome.  In addition, your doctor will order a complete neurological and orthopedic exam and because the symptoms of piriformis syndrome can mimic other conditions that cause compression of the sciatic nerve like disc herniation, your chiropractor may order additional tests like an MRI.

Some of the signs your chiropractor is looking for may include:

  • Pain that worsens on climbing stairs, sitting, walking, running or doing squats.  These symptoms aren’t definitive for diagnosing piriformis syndrome by themselves, but they can be used along with other symptomology to help rule out other causes.
  • Testing for tendinitis with resisted muscle testing.  Again, this isn’t a standalone diagnostic tool because the piriformis works alongside other muscles in the buttocks like the Superior and Inferior gemellus, the Obturator internus and the quadratus femoris, but it will be taken into consideration while forming the diagnosis.
  • One foot that rotates outward more than the other foot when lying on your back, relaxed.
  • Pain that increases by passively or externally rotating the hip.
  • Tender and tight muscles that may involve painful trigger points when directly palpated.  The pain can radiate down your legs.
  • Weakness in the muscles surrounding the area, with dysfunction of the joints in your sacroiliac.
  • Testing to rule out injuries of the spine, such as disc herniation.  Bonnet’s test is one diagnostic tool to check for irritation of the sciatic nerve by a tight piriformis muscle.

Your Chiropractor and Piriformis Syndrome Treatment

Historically, the treatments for piriformis syndrome have only masked the symptoms rather than treating the underlying cause.  Muscle relaxants, over the counter medications and anti-inflammatory drugs have been commonly prescribed to reduce pain, with muscle injections often needed for severe pain.  While these treatment modalities can reduce the swelling and cover the pain, the injury itself remains untreated.  Other treatment plans can include massage, heat therapy, and exercise.

Your chiropractor treats the body as a whole, however, and will extend treatment to other parts of the body that may seem unrelated at first.  By focusing treatment on the spine, pelvis, or limb, the chiropractor can loosen the piriformis muscle to allow for a natural and complete healing process.

Once your chiropractor has addressed the symptoms and associated problems along with your piriformis syndrome, your chances of returning to normal activities are very good.  Your chiropractor may need to modify some activities and exercise routines to keep the condition from recurring.

If you think you may have piriformis syndrome, or if you have any back pain at all, you should schedule an evaluation with your chiropractor. 

Some risk factors for developing chronic back pain are:

  • Poor posture
  • Poor core muscle strength, limited spinal stability, and poor levels of fitness
  • Prior back pain episodes
  • Pain that lasts more than eight days

In other words, the longer you have untreated back pain, the more likely you will suffer chronic or recurring back pain.  It is important for your recovery to have a prompt diagnosis and a treatment plan along with a follow up program from your chiropractor as soon as possible.

Posted in

Comments

A WordPress Commenter on November 16, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Hi, this is a comment.
To get started with moderating, editing, and deleting comments, please visit the Comments screen in the dashboard.
Commenter avatars come from Gravatar.

(Edit)

Can A Car Accidents Cause A Herniated Disc?

By Dr. Jason Crist | March 6, 2019

After car accidents, it’s not uncommon for someone to experience pain and stiffness.  What if it’s more than just a little post-accident discomfort?  After all, you weren’t going that fast, so how bad could it be? The truth is, it doesn’t matter how fast you were going when you were hit.  Serious injury is possible…

Read More

Chiropractic Treatment for Your Degenerative Disc Disease

By Dr. Jason Crist | February 21, 2019

What is degenerative disc disease? There is a difference between normal aging in the protective discs that cushion the spine and the condition commonly known as degenerative disc disease.  While most people will experience some normal age-related wear and tear, some will go on to develop this painfully debilitating condition and will require treatment for…

Read More

Recommended for You

Can A Car Accidents Cause A Herniated Disc?

March 6, 2019

After car accidents, it’s not uncommon for someone to experience pain and stiffness.  What if it’s more than just a little post-accident discomfort?  After all, you weren’t going that fast, so how bad could it be? The truth is, it doesn’t matter how fast you were going when you were hit.  Serious injury is possible…

Read More

Chiropractic Treatment for Your Degenerative Disc Disease

February 21, 2019

What is degenerative disc disease? There is a difference between normal aging in the protective discs that cushion the spine and the condition commonly known as degenerative disc disease.  While most people will experience some normal age-related wear and tear, some will go on to develop this painfully debilitating condition and will require treatment for…

Read More

Nonsurgical Spine Decompression: For Natural Pain Relief

February 13, 2019

If you have back or neck pain, your treatment options used to be limited and invasive. Doctors would use steroid injections, addictive medications, and risky surgeries as treatment. Today, we have a nonsurgical way to get you pain free. Spine decompression naturally heals bulging discs, degenerating discs, sciatica, and spinal stenosis. Decompression therapy is a…

Read More
Crist Chiropractic & Wellness exists to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health through natural and holistic means. Our team is committed to restoring the body’s ability to express its true health potential. We strive to serve our patients and our community with a spirit of complete caring, by radiating health and promoting well-being.

Goodbye Back Pain. Hello Pain Relief!
Crist Chiropractic of Cool Springs Helps You Live Better Now