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What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome is when the Piriformis muscle, which is found in the buttocks, becomes short and tight and in some cases can irritate the sciatic nerve that runs down into the leg.

How does Piriformis Syndrome happen?

Piriformis syndrome normally develops in two ways. The first is following a heavy impact or trauma to the buttocks e.g falling onto a hard surface, which can cause damage to the piriformis and lead to tightening and spasm. The second is from repeated overuse of the piriformis muscle e.g. increase or change in running, that causes it to fatigue and become damaged, which results in muscle spasm and shortening of the muscle.

If any muscle is injured it becomes short and tight and can develop "knots" otherwise known as "trigger points" which can refer pain to other areas. What is different about the piriformis, is how close it sits to the sciatic nerve. If the muscle becomes injured, the inflammatory response can irritate the nerve, and in some cases, the muscle spasm can compress the sciatic nerve, causing pain to travel down the leg.

Therapist applying targeted massage to piriformis to relieve painAbove: Therapist applying targeted massage to piriformis to relieve pain

What are the symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome often comes on gradually, with pain normally in one side of the buttock and sometimes radiating down the leg. Symptoms can include:
  • Worsening pain on repetitive leg activities such as running or cycling
  • It may be painful moving your leg outwards to get of bed or a car
  • Your pain may be worse when squat down or sit for long periods of time
  • You may find the pain difficult to localise to one specific area

What should I do if I have Piriformis Syndrome?

You should try and rest from activities that are aggravating your symptoms, but this is unlikely to solve the problem and you should book in to see a physiotherapist as soon as possible.

What is the physiotherapy treatment for Piriformis Syndrome?

Physiotherapy can make a big improvement for people with piriformis syndrome. The physiotherapist will confirm the diagnosis and its severity with a thorough assessment, after which you will be provided with an individualised treatment programme to reduce your pain and target the cause of the problem. Treatment may include:

What shouldn't I do if I have Piriformis Syndrome?

If you think you have piriformis syndrome, you shouldn't ignore the problem. Piriformis syndrome is unlikely to resolve on its own and leaving it could make the problem worse and prolong your recovery.

Could there be any long term effects from Piriformis Syndrome?

If diagnosed and treated quickly there are no long term effects. However, if the condition is left for a long period of time, you may develop muscle wasting and altered biomechanics which may predispose you to develop other conditions.

To arrange a biomechanical running assessment with one of the specialist physiotherapists, please call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 today. You can also book appointments online using our online booking system

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