Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome is related to sciatica. It results when the piriformis muscle, located deep within the buttocks, impinges on the sciatic nerve. The condition is relatively rare, accounting for approximately six percent of sciatica cases.

In most people, the sciatic nerve is underneath the piriformis muscle, but in between 15 to 20 percent of the population, the nerve passes through this muscle. If you experience sciatic pain and it does not subside within a few days, consult with an experienced Tampa Bay doctor to discuss any treatment options.

The Piriformis Muscle

The piriformis muscle extends from the lower spine to the top of the thigh bone. It lies deep within the buttocks, behind the gluteus maximus. The muscle itself aids in hip rotation and outward turning of the foot and leg.

Piriformis muscle tightening can pressure the sciatic nerve, as can spasms in the muscle. Spasms may occur from some sort of back accident or overuse of the muscle.

Runners, cyclists, long-distance walkers and rowers often develop piriformis syndrome symptoms for this reason. In that sense, it is a sports injury. Overuse of the muscle results in swelling, irritating the sciatic nerve.

Although there is no “typical” piriformis patient, it is not an uncommon diagnosis in people who work at desk jobs during the week and pursue extensive weekend athletic activities.

Potential Symptoms

Piriformis syndrome symptoms resemble those of sciatica. These symptoms include:

  • Deep buttock pain
  • Rear thigh pain
  • Pain traveling down the leg

Pain generally intensifies when there is any pressure on the sciatic nerve by the muscle, such as walking up and down stairs or sitting. Less commonly, piriformis syndrome causes pain during intercourse or defecation.

Syndrome Diagnosis

There is no definite way to diagnosis piriformis syndrome. The doctor in Tampa Bay performs a physical examination, moving the patient’s legs or body to determine pain levels. Since sciatica is so common, diagnosis of piriformis syndrome often consists of ruling out other causes of the nerve pain, including herniated discs.

Magnetic resonance neuropathy, a type of magnetic resonance imaging, can show nerve inflammation and pin down or eliminate a piriformis syndrome diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Treating piriformis syndrome involves a multi-pronged approach. The Tampa Bay doctor may suggest over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, for pain relief. Other treatment modalities include:

  • Massage
  • Specific stretching exercises
  • Hot and cold therapy

If NSAIDs do not offer sufficient pain relief, the doctor in Tampa Bay may inject a steroid pain medication into the area where the sciatic nerve meets the piriformis muscle.

If conservative therapies do not work, Botox might make a difference. Although best known for its cosmetic use in wrinkle reduction, Botox works by inhibiting nerve signals to muscles, relaxing contracted muscles.

Botox wears off after a few months, but during this time the patient should engage in an exercise and physical therapy regimen to alleviate the issue.

In a worst-case scenario, patients may require surgery to relieve sciatic nerve pressure.

Contacting a Lawyer

Patients diagnosed with piriformis syndrome are at risk of developing it again after the initial recovery. An exercise regimen can lower the risk of a relapse. Good conditioning, especially of the gluteal muscles, can prevent another episode of piriformis syndrome.

To prevent such symptoms, it is important to contact a Tampa Bay spine surgeon to make an appointment for an examination.