Kevin M. Moran, MD

Piriformis Syndrome

Aug 03, 2023
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What is piriformis syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome is a condition that occurs when the piriformis muscle in the buttocks irritates or compresses the sciatic nerve, leading to pain and discomfort. The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep in the buttock region, connecting the lower spine to the top of the femur (thigh bone).

In some people, the sciatic nerve runs directly through or very close to the piriformis muscle. If the muscle becomes tight, inflamed, or spasms, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in symptoms similar to those of sciatica.

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include:

Pain: Pain is the primary symptom, which is usually felt in the buttocks and may radiate down the back of the leg. The pain can be sharp, burning, or aching in nature.

Tingling and Numbness: Some individuals with piriformis syndrome may experience tingling or numbness in the buttocks or down the leg, similar to sciatica.

Worsening Pain with Activity: Pain may worsen with activities that involve prolonged sitting, walking, running, or climbing stairs.

Pain on Sitting: Sitting for extended periods can exacerbate the pain, and some people may find relief by standing or walking.

The exact cause of piriformis syndrome is not always clear, but certain factors may contribute to its development:

Overuse or Strain: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive movements of the legs, like running or biking, can strain the piriformis muscle.

Muscle Imbalance: Muscular imbalances in the hips and buttocks can lead to increased stress on the piriformis muscle.

Trauma or Injury: An injury to the buttocks or hip region can cause inflammation and irritation of the piriformis muscle.

Anatomical Variation: In some individuals, the sciatic nerve may pass through the piriformis muscle, making them more susceptible to compression.

Diagnosing piriformis syndrome can be challenging since the symptoms are similar to other conditions like herniated discs or true sciatica. Make an appointment with Dr. Kevin Moran, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in spine surgery. He will use physical examinations, medical history, and imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans to rule out other causes and confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for piriformis syndrome typically includes:

Rest: Avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain.

Stretching and Exercises: Specific stretching and strengthening exercises can help alleviate symptoms and prevent future occurrences.

Heat or Ice Therapy: Applying heat or cold packs can provide temporary relief.

Anti-inflammatory Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended.

Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can guide you through exercises and techniques to improve muscle flexibility and reduce pain.

Injections: In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Surgery is rarely considered for piriformis syndrome and is typically reserved for cases where conservative treatments have not been effective.

If you suspect you have piriformis syndrome or are experiencing persistent buttock or leg pain, make an appointment with Dr. Kevin Moran, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in spine surgery for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.