Understanding Piriformis Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Authored by Dr. Arth Patel, MD, our expert board-certified Sports Medicine physician. Dr. Patel is known for his dedication to providing compassionate and exceptional care. With specialized knowledge in treating sports-related injuries and managing both acute and chronic conditions, Dr. Patel is committed to helping people of all ages achieve optimal musculoskeletal health.


What Is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome happens when a muscle deep in your buttock, called the piriformis, gets tight or spasms, causing pain. This is commonly confused sciatica. The piriformis muscle is under the glute muscles and is important for moving your hips and keeping your balance. It helps turn your hip outward and lift your leg to the side. If this muscle becomes fatigued or biomechanics change, it can cause issues with how you stand or walk and lead to other problems.

Research shows that up to 17% of people with chronic low back pain might have piriformis syndrome. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for piriformis syndrome is crucial for athletes experiencing these symptoms seeking effective orthopedic care. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of piriformis syndrome and discuss various treatment approaches to help alleviate pain and improve quality of life.


Recognizing the Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome

Recognizing the symptoms of piriformis syndrome is the first step in understanding and addressing this condition. The most common symptom is pain, which may be localized in the buttocks. It is sometimes confused with sciatica, which causes a sharp shooting pain down the back of the leg. Although both can happen together, it is very rare. This pain is often described as a deep ache or sharp shooting sensation.

Other symptoms that may accompany piriformis syndrome include difficulty sitting (wallet sign) or walking for extended periods. Some individuals may also experience muscle weakness or difficulty in moving their leg or foot. This pain usually affects one side more and can get worse with sitting too long, moving your hip often, like when walking or climbing stairs, or if you press on the sore area. 

It’s important to note that the symptoms of piriformis syndrome can be similar to those of other conditions, such as sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy. Seeking an accurate diagnosis from a board-certified primary care sports medicine physician, orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist is crucial to obtain an accurate diagnosis before starting any treatment.


Causes of Piriformis Syndrome

Understanding the causes and risk factors of piriformis syndrome can help active individuals and athletes prevent or manage this condition more effectively. While the exact cause of piriformis syndrome is often unknown, there are several factors that may contribute to its development.

One possible cause of piriformis syndrome is excessive tightness or spasm of the piriformis muscle itself. This can be triggered by overuse, improper exercise technique, or trauma to the buttocks region.

In some cases, anatomical variations or abnormalities may also play a role. For example, having a sciatic nerve that runs through the piriformis muscle or having a variation in the shape or position of the piriformis muscle itself can increase the risk of developing piriformis syndrome.

Other factors that may increase the risk of piriformis syndrome include muscle imbalances, poor posture, and prolonged sitting or engaging in repetitive activities that involve the piriformis muscle.


Piriformis Syndrome Treatment Options

Once one of our doctors has confirmed a diagnosis of piriformis syndrome, there are several treatment options available to alleviate symptoms, reduce pain, and promote recovery. The choice of treatment will depend on the severity of your condition and your individual needs.

  • Conservative treatments: These include rest, ice or heat therapy, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage pain and inflammation. Physical therapy and stretching exercises can also help strengthen the muscles surrounding the piriformis and improve flexibility.
  • Pain Management: In some cases, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants and pain medications or employ other pain management techniques to provide temporary relief from symptoms. 
  • Injections: If conservative measures do not provide sufficient relief, your healthcare provider may recommend injection therapies. These may include corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Surgical intervention: In rare cases where conservative treatments and injections have not been effective, surgical intervention may be necessary. This option is usually considered when there is significant compression of the sciatic nerve.

It is important to work closely with your orthopedic specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific condition.


Find Relief From Piriformis Syndrome at AOSMI in New Jersey

Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for Piriformis Syndrome is crucial for anyone experiencing this condition. Dr. Arth Patel and the team of orthopedic specialists at AOSMI are here to help you in your journey toward relief from piriformis syndrome. 

Contact us to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic sports medicine doctor who can provide a comprehensive evaluation and develop an effective treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Don’t let Piriformis Syndrome limit your mobility and quality of life any longer; take the first step towards relief by reaching out to AOSMI today.