What’s the Piriformis?
- The piriformis is a hip rotator muscle that runs from your sacrum to the top of the femur (see pic). When this muscle spasms and becomes tight, it can cause a condition known as piriformis syndrome.
- This condition can result in:
- Buttocks pain
- It’s referral pattern is mainly in this area, with some pain being felt down the back of the thigh and leg. In the pic below, the red dots indicate where pain is most commonly felt when pressing on the “x” areas.
- Leg / Foot pain
- When tight, this muscle can compress the sciatic nerve (see pic below) that runs either directly underneath it or through it (depends on one’s anatomy), causing pain in the areas that are innervated by that nerve.
- Buttocks pain
How do you treat it?
- Range-of-Motion Exercises
- Ensuring that the surrounding joints have proper range-of-motion is a great starting point. Stretching various muscles and working on mobility helps in alleviating the tension associated with this condition. Piriformis-specific stretches are very effective for relaxing the pain of a tight piriformis. An example stretch is seen below.
- Soft-Tissue Work
- Try foam rolling or putting a lacrosse ball underneath it while getting into the stretch to provide a deeper release of the muscle. You could also try using a massage gun for a more targeted and aggressive form of myofascial release!
- Manual therapy
- If at-home care doesn’t resolve your pain, it may be a good idea to see a manual therapist (Chiro, PT, etc). They will be able to do more focused work that you might not be able to on your own!
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Written by Dr. Brandon Buchla, DC, CSCS
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