Piriformis Syndrome: Exercises, Diagnosis, and Causes

April 2021

If you’ve recently been suffering from pain and tenderness in the hips and down the back of your leg, it may be because you have piriformis syndrome. This syndrome is caused by pressure being put on the sciatic nerve by muscle spasms in your buttock. When this happens, sciatica can occur which results in pins-and-needles sensations or numbness that travels from your buttock into the back of your thigh.

The piriformis is a muscle that attaches to the back of the sacrum, or lower spine, and to the sciatic nerve. When this muscle becomes inflamed and compresses the sciatic nerve, symptoms can include pain in your hips, buttocks, thighs, and genitals as well as numbness in your legs 

Though the exact cause of piriformis syndrome remains unknown some potential factors which may contribute are tightness of other hip muscles such as iliopsoas or iliacus (which causes increased pressure on piriformis), repetitive motions such as cycling or prolonged sitting (which place pressure on piriformis), fractures in your pelvis from a prior accident (which may require surgery).

Piriformis syndrome is a difficult-to-diagnose but common condition that causes pain and other symptoms in the butt area. It can be painful both to sit down and to get up from a sitting position, while also causing an uncomfortable feeling of pressure or tightness

There are a variety of exercises one can do for piriformis syndrome, as well as ways to avoid it altogether. Diagnosis can be complicated, but the condition does rely on certain characteristic pain patterns. Seeking treatment is important because if left untreated it has been shown to worsen.

The most common causes of piriformis syndrome are overweight or obesity, prolonged sitting, and sitting on the buttocks when the legs are tired. The symptoms can also be caused by pregnancy or a torn or strained iliopsoas muscle. Other causes of piriformis syndrome include tight hip flexors in the front of the body and excessively tight quadriceps muscles in the back of the thigh. Additionally, a compressed nerve might be causing pain in a person who has piriformis syndrome as well.

If one has suffered from piriformis syndrome for an extended period of time, their symptoms can become even more severe. This is because the ligaments and surrounding muscles can become weaker.

Causes of Piriformis Syndrome

There are many things that can lead to a weak or injured piriformis muscle, including: 

Sitting is the most common cause of piriformis syndrome, which causes pain as a result of prolonged sitting. Muscle tissue in the buttocks becomes weakened due to prolonged sitting, leading to a condition called piriformis syndrome. The problem exists when these muscles become weakened and are unable to keep an otherwise normal hip movement (such as when walking or standing). If this problem occurs in conjunction with other problems like pregnancy, then it could be caused by weight gain during pregnancy or hip replacement surgery.

Piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the sciatic nerve is compressed in the piriformis muscle. Piriformis syndrome is often caused by a tight sciatic nerve, but can also be due to an injury or narrowing of the space through which the nerve travels. With this exercise you will be able to stretch and relieve your piriformis muscle in order to lessen your pain and help heal your condition.

For this exercise it is important that you are sitting as straight as possible and that you place one foot on top of the other so they form a diamond shape with your lower body. Lift your right leg up and bend it as far as possible while keeping your knee straight. Bring the foot down slowly and repeat with the left leg.

Wrap a towel around your ankle or foot to keep it safe and to prevent injuries. Do this exercise for 10 minutes, three days a week on alternating days with your regular exercises. If you experience pain in the sciatic nerve while doing this exercise then it is recommended that you stop immediately. Remember to go back to the basics of stretching your muscles before you even begin doing exercises again. Stay away from unnecessary movement that could aggravate the piriformis syndrome and become more painful.

In your regular stretching routine, attempt to stretch the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve. This will help to keep them from becoming too tight, which may lead to pain in the future. It is also recommended that you pay special attention to your diet when managing an injury such as piriformis syndrome. 

A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and that limits fried foods may help reduce inflammation of the sciatic nerve while promoting healthy weight loss. You should also drink plenty of water every day to keep your body hydrated and healthy while exercise is restricted. Not getting enough water can cause pain to become worse than it should be due to inflammation of the sciatic nerve in this area of the body.

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