Piriformis Syndrome is a condition which is often confused with sciatica as it displays very similar symptoms such as the tingling, numbness, burning sensation and or pain travelling down the back or side of the leg. It varies in the degree of pain but as I say present in very much the same way.
People who may suffer from Piriformis Syndrome may be people who due to the nature of their job tend to do a large proportion of it seated. If you then suddenly decide to take exertive exercise without warming up properly this can lead to a shortening of the piriformis muscle, which can lead to spasm, contracture and pain.
The piriformis is a muscle which runs from the base of you spine out to the hip bone. It has caused controversy in the past as it has been known as pseudo sciatica and hip socket neuropathy. It is thought to be caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve which is why it is so often confused with sciatica.
The piriformis muscle can either irritate or compress the sciatic nerve but it is unfortunately notoriously difficult to diagnose.
When the doctor is trying to diagnose the condition they will manipulate the hip to recreate the pain. However the same pain is often present in other back conditions so does not give a clear indication.
It is also surmised that the sciatic nerve due to a genetic abnormality may actually pass through the piriformis muscle and at a later period in life possibly due to trauma begin to constrict the sciatic nerve causing symptoms.
Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome
- Reduced range of hip movement
- Pain deep in the affected muscle of the buttock
- Pain can increase when sitting or squatting
Options available to alleviate Piriformis Syndrome include
a) Stretching exercises
b) Activity modifications –i.e. not sitting for lengthy periods at a time or driving long distances with the affected leg in the same position.
c) Heat therapy
e) Injections of local anaesthetics or botulinum toxin
Treatment for Piriformis Syndrome
Such as the ones above have all been tried to relieve this syndrome with varying degrees of effectiveness. Often what works or rather helps one person does not always give relief with another it is always important to try alternative therapies if they are suggested by your healthcare provider.
Surgery is as always the last resort for this condition. The operation involves surgically detaching the piriformis muscle from the hip bone thereby reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerve. The operation itself does not damage the strength of the muscles as you have other muscular structures to support your hip.