The piriformis muscle is a large muscle that’s located deep in the gluteal region, or buttocks. It attaches on one end to the top of the femur and on the other to the lower back, or the base of the spine. This muscle allows you to rotate your hips and to turn your feet and legs outward. It’s also responsible for providing stabilization and balance while walking.
Piriformis syndrome refers to the irritation of the piriformis muscle. This irritation typically causes swelling in nearby tissue, which in turn puts excessive pressure on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the spinal column to just below the knees. Although piriformis syndrome is considered to be rare, it may also not be diagnosed properly in many cases.
Numerous symptoms are associated with piriformis syndrome. Pain is usually located within the muscle itself and tends to be most severe near where the muscle attaches to the femur or lower back. Pain that is sharp and stabbing or dull and achy may also occur along the sciatic nerve.
The causes of piriformis syndrome aren’t completely understood, but it is believed that people who engage in activities like jumping and running, which put extra strain on the piriformis muscle, may be at increased risk.
The treatment of piriformis syndrome often depends on the cause. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to pinpoint a definitive cause. On the positive side, however, there are numerous treatment options. The most common ones include:
Medication – Depending on the cause and/or severity of the symptoms of piriformis syndrome, a doctor may prescribe one of several types of medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs, are commonly used. Antidepressants work well in some cases, and oral analgesics like acetaminophen are sometimes enough to do the trick. Gabapentin, a medication that is most commonly used to treat neuropathic pain, is also an option. We may also recommend fluoroscopically-guided steroid injections into the piriformis muscle.
Spinal Cord Stimulation – Spinal cord stimulation, which involves using electrical impulses to block the transmission of pain signals, can afford significant relief in cases of piriformis syndrome associated with radicular pain in the extremity.
Although relatively rare and not completely understood, piriformis syndrome is a real condition that can cause significant hardship in a person’s life. The first step to achieving relief from the symptoms is to seek medical attention from a qualified physician. From there, treatment options can be explored.