If you’ve ever been on a long car ride, then you know that sitting for hours at a time can be a pain in the buttocks – literally. That’s because sitting for long periods of time can compress the sciatic nerve and cause what is known as piriformis syndrome. Long car rides aren’t the only cause of sciatic nerve compression. What causes it? And, how can you treat piriformis syndrome?
What is piriformis syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder that is caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed. The piriformis muscle is found in the buttock near the top of the hip joint. That muscle helps lower body movement and stabilizes the hip joint. The sciatic nerve goes through the piriformis muscle and down the back of the legs.
When you sit for long periods of time, especially with poor posture, you end up compressing that sciatic nerve. This can cause spasms in the piriformis muscle and creates a feeling of being sore or achy. Compressing the sciatic nerve can also be done while running, climbing stairs, or applying firm pressure onto the piriformis muscle.
Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome
Since piriformis syndrome involves a nerve, the most telling sign includes sharp, severe, or radiating pain. This occurs from the lower back down the legs and into the thighs, calves, or feet. Along with pain, you may also experience:
- Difficulty sitting or putting weight on one cheek
- Muscle spasms of the piriformis muscle
- Pain in the piriformis muscle during a rectal exam
- Sciatica-type pain when the hip is moved or rotated
Diagnosing Piriformis Syndrome
While there is no easy way to tell if someone is experiencing piriformis syndrome, an orthopedic specialist will ask you questions about your history and if you’ve had any trauma to the area, regularly experience vigorous activity like long-distance running, or if you sit for long periods of time. Based on your symptoms and a physical exam, your doctor may also suggest a radiologic test or MRI to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms – including hip bursitis and disc herniation.
Preventing Piriformis Syndrome
There is no reliable way to prevent piriformis syndrome, but there are precautions you can take to reduce your risk. If you often sit for long periods of time or are prone to back problems, you should:
- Stretch and perform home exercises
- Avoid carrying a wallet in your back pocket
- Take frequent breaks from sitting
- Treat contributing conditions like spinal arthritis or foot problems
Treating Piriformis Syndrome
While symptoms of piriformis syndrome can be relieved with medications like pain relievers and muscle relaxants, the best way to treat piriformis is to see a doctor or orthopedic specialist. They’ll suggest physical therapy, exercises, and stretching to help alleviate pain and prevent future incidents. Other treatments may include:
- Gait adjustments
- Improved mobility of sacroiliac joints
- Stretching piriformis and hip muscles
- Strengthening hip abductors
- Heat application
- Anesthetic injections
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If buttock pain is making life uncomfortable, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.