Piriformis syndrome, a condition often mistaken for sciatica, is muscle spasms within the buttock region or more precisely the piriformis muscle. 

As shown in the diagram the piriformis muscles run across from the centre of your lower spine to the top of your thigh bones. This piriformis is a small muscle that is hidden behind the gluteus maximus (the largest and heaviest muscle in the body).

Again, as seen in the diagram, the piriformis muscles press against the sciatic nerve which is why symptoms of Piriformis syndrome can be mistaken for sciatica.

Piriformis syndrome is a medical condition in its own right and can be treated once diagnosed.

How is Piriformis syndrome diagnosed?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive test for piriformis syndrome however diagnoses can be reached by ruling out other causes of sciatica pain. 

Before a physical exam, a healthcare professional will go through your medical history to rule out such things as – 

  • Injury
  • Obesity 
  • Bad posture 
  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Slipped disc
  • Spondylolisthesis 

A physical examination will also take place. This includes testing muscle strength or tenderness around the affected area.

X-rays may also be required to rule out structural issues such as a herniated disc.

How to prevent Piriformis Syndrome?

Sitting for long periods can increase the risk of Piriformis syndrome and other day-to-day activities such as walking, running or simply climbing the stairs. The key to avoidance is core strength and good posture. 

Warming up before exercising helps reduce many potential injuries, including Piriformis syndrome, and you should always stop and rest if you are in pain.

How is Piriformis treated?

Although rest and a hot or cold compress may help alleviate pain, you should seek treatment from a physical therapist. These treatment plans can be performed at home with support from weekly physiotherapy sessions.

You can also take over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen which will help reduce swelling and decrease pain. 

As well as stretching and motion exercises, your physiotherapist will also be able to offer deep massages, which will help increase blood flow and prevent muscle spasms. 

If you need help treating Piriformis syndrome or need a diagnosis for lower back pain, get in touch today.