What is Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder, which is caused from the piriformis muscle compressing the sciatic nerve as it passes under or beside the muscle. The sciatic nerve is a long nerve, which extends from the spine, passes through structures in the buttocks and sends branches to the foot.
Populations most prone to Piriformis Syndrome:
Athletes, especially distance runners, as well as sedentary people are prone to this condition. People with jobs that involve sitting for long periods of time have a higher prevalence than people with more active jobs.
Causes of Piriformis Syndrome:
As there are many causes, however, runners who modify or their gait pattern, have weakness at the hips, poor posture or improperly stretch are more prone to acquiring piriformis syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome:
Piriformis syndrome can cause pain, numbness or tingling into the buttock and possibly down the leg. As the piriformis compresses the sciatic nerve, pain, numbness or tingling can be experienced throughout the length of the nerve causing symptoms to the foot.
How Physical Therapy can Minimize Symptoms:
A physical therapist will be able to assess which structures are weak or have decreased flexibility to identify what may be contributing to the compression of the nerve. Symptoms may be relieved through a combination of massage, stretching, heat or ice. If the syndrome is aggravated due to sports involving running, a physical therapist may be able to perform a video gait analysis. An analysis of a runners gait may be performed, which may help to identify any weaknesses or deviations to focus your therapy on the specific impairments.
Prevention of Piriformis Syndrome:
Keeping the hips and abdominals strong and flexible is one way to avoid piriformis syndrome. Running on even ground, by avoiding hills, avoiding the same route and gradually increasing the intensity and speed will help prevent symptoms from occurring.
As good form is important in prevention of this syndrome, a video gait analysis may also be helpful to identify any gait deviations. If the symptoms occur, it is important not to push through the pain, but to rest until the symptoms are minimized. If the symptoms continue to persist, refer to your physician for medical treatment.
This article was written by Colleen Burke, PT, DPT from AthletiCo-Clybourn..