Piriformis syndrome is a type of neuromuscular disorder that is not much common. It happens when the sciatic nerve gets compressed by the piriformis muscle. Piriformis muscle is a ribbon-like muscle present in the saddle area near the upper part of the hip joint. This muscle functions to stabilize the hip joint and makes possible the lifting and rotation of thigh away from the torso, thus, this muscle is very important for the movements of the lower part of the body. The sciatic nerve goes through this muscle. It is very thick and takes a very long path, starting from the lower back, going down the back of the leg and divides into different branches. The spasm of piriform muscle may take place causing the nerve compression leading to piriformis syndrome.
Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome
There may be many signs and symptoms for this syndrome but sciatica is the major symptom. Sometimes, the patient feels moderate or severe discomfort in the other parts of the body for example back of the leg. It is termed as referred pain. Some of the other common symptoms of piriformis syndrome are following:
- Feeling of numbness or tingling sensations in the saddle area that may go up to the back of the leg.
- Tenderness of soft tissues in the saddle area
- The patient is unable to sit comfortably
- Pain is felt while sitting which is aggravated while the periods of prolonged sitting
- Pain is felt in the hips region and legs that is aggravated with work out.
- In some cases, pain is so severe that it leads to disabling. The patient is unable to perform routine tasks such as driving, sitting in an office chair or other household activities.
Causes of Piriformis Syndrome
There may be many causes for piriformis syndrome but some of the main ones are following:
- Muscle overuse due to excessive workout
- Running for more than recommended time
- Repetitive activities which involve the leg muscles
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time without taking any break for stretches or walk
- Heavyweight lifting practice
- Extensive stair climbing
- Injuries to the piriform muscles which may take place due to a bad fall, any hit at this region during sports, a penetrating wound that extends up to this muscle or a sudden twisting movement of the hip.
Management of Piriformis Syndrome
Following are the treatment modalities for piriformis syndrome:
Cold Packs and Massage with Ice
When pain is started, lie in a prone position on your stomach and apply a cold fomentation, for example, an ice pack on the aching area for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat the practice after every two to four hours as per requirement. You can add a gentle massage with ice therapy. This shows a good result. Lie in the prone position and ask someone to massage gently your aching area with an ice pack. If you are not using an ice pack instead of directly applying ice, limit the time up to ten minutes to avoid any damage to the skin.
It is proven helpful for some patients to apply both cold and hot packs alternatively. If you want to apply a heating pad, again lie in the prone position and gently apply the heat pad. Do not lie in a prone position on a heating pad because it may result in skin burns.
Stretches and Exercise
Piriformis muscle can be made stronger by various stretches and exercises. Exercises if performed correctly help in relieving muscle spasm and pain. You can perform the following activities
- Lie in a supine position keeping legs in the extended position. Move the aching leg towards the chest by making grip at knee and ankle. Move the knee towards ankle on the opposite side of the body until you feel a stretch.
- With the aching leg, make a cross over the other knee, flex both legs while lying in a supine position. Move the lower knee to the shoulder until you feel a stretch.
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit is applied to the saddle area which blocks the pain and corrects the spasm of the muscles. An interferential current stimulator can also be used for this purpose.
Treatment and Prevention of Piriformis Syndrome
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The Backrack™ device works directly on the root cause of back pain so you get a permanent pain relief without taking any medicine. All you have to do is to perform easy exercises that are specially designed for this device. It’s a natural treatment for not only piriformis syndrome but for other spinal conditions such as sciatica, hip pain, neck pain, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, and postural disorders. To learn more about the Backrack™ device, please visit the above provided link.