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Physical therapy for piriformis syndrome

What is piriformis syndrome?

The piriformis, a band-like muscle located behind the gluteus maximus, assists with hip rotation and the motions involved in walking and running. Patients suffering from piriformis syndrome experience severe pain and discomfort as the piriformis compresses and irritates the sciatic nerve.

It can be difficult to distinguish piriformis syndrome from other forms of sciatica, as the symptoms are nearly identical. Estimates suggest that about 5% of sciatica cases are due to piriformis syndrome. However, because there is no official test for the condition, its prevalence isn’t fully understood. In many cases of piriformis syndrome, a specific cause cannot be identified.

Source: Harvard Health

Piriformis syndrome symptoms

The symptoms of piriformis syndrome often resemble those of sciatica or hip bursitis. Typically, patients with piriformis syndrome will first notice pain, tingling, and numbness in the buttocks. Over time, the pain may extend down the length of the sciatic nerve and grow increasingly severe.

Pain is likely to intensify during activities that cause further compression of the sciatic nerve. For this reason, running, sitting, climbing stairs, or applying pressure to the piriformis muscle can cause greater discomfort.

The most common symptoms of piriformis syndrome include:

  • Pain, numbness, and tingling in the buttocks
  • Pain that extends along the sciatic nerve
  • Increased pain with pressure on the piriformis muscle

Source: WebMD

What causes piriformis syndrome?

Pinpointing the precise cause of piriformis syndrome often presents a challenge. While it’s known to be caused by pressure on the piriformis muscle, this can originate from a wide number and combination of sources. It is known, however, that injury to or abnormal growth of the muscle can precipitate the condition’s eventual development.

In addition to these known causes, scoliosis and other conditions relating to abnormal spine alignment can put individuals at greater risk. Having legs of two different lengths or preexisting foot problems constitute additional risk factors.

The most common causes of piriformis syndrome include:

  • Injury
  • An irregular piriformis muscle
  • Scoliosis
  • An irregular sciatic nerve

Source: Harvard Health

Physical therapy for piriformis syndrome

Most patients with piriformis syndrome turn to physical therapy to relieve pain and improve mobility, and surgery is typically unnecessary. A physical therapist will usually begin applying heat to the affected area via heat pack or ultrasound in order to ease muscle spasms and pain prior to starting exercise.

Initially, the PT may use deep-tissue massage and other manual treatments designed to relieve pain. As the patient advances in their PT regimen, they can begin to stretch on their own. Once the patient is comfortable with stretching, they can move into postural training, strengthening, and conditioning exercises.

Source: Rocky Mountain PT

The best piriformis syndrome
physical therapists in the Bay Area

Luna’s Bay Area-based physical therapists are experts in helping patients with piriformis syndrome reduce pain, increase mobility, and return to the activities and lifestyle that they enjoy. With proven techniques, personalized stretching and strengthening routines, and unparalleled expertise, our licensed PTs will design therapy programs tailored to each patient’s needs.

Best of all, with Luna, patients can get physical therapy sessions in the most convenient location of all — home. It’s physical therapy, delivered.

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