Are you suffering from leg pain that may burn, ache, and radiate to your knee or worse yet be felt down to your toes? The bad news is that it hurts tremendously and you have become tired with the pain of trying to “cure” the problem with your leg. The great news is that it may be a type of sciatica that is very treatable by correcting the cause which, believe it or not, is not located in your leg.
So if you are ready to get rid of the pain in the “butt” pain distraction read on!
The Connection Between Sciatica and Piriformis Muscle
Sciatica or sciatic pain is commonly referred to as the pain that radiates down from the buttock into the leg. There are many causes for sciatica; however, the most common is irritation of the spinal nerves in the lumbar spine. When the nerve irritation is not coming from the spine but further down the leg it can be difficult to appreciate the difference.
One particular spinal cause of sciatica is called piriformis syndrome. When the piriformis muscle, a small muscle that extends from the sacrum to the outer hip bone, compresses and irritates the sciatic nerve, it causes pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve in the buttocks into the back of the leg often producing lower back pain. Piriformis syndrome can be painful, but it is seldom dangerous and rarely leads to the need for surgery. Most people with this condition can reduce the pain and learn to manage the problem.
What Causes Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome may be due to an overuse injury of the piriformis muscle or from a trauma to the muscle itself by a blunt force or fall.
Overuse of the piriformis muscle is a factor that often occurs in athletes such as bicyclists, rowers, and runners, as well as any athlete that repetitively engage in forward moving activities. The condition can often be avoided by performing proper lateral stretching and strengthening exercises.
What Are the Symptoms?
Piriformis syndrome causes pain primarily along the sciatic nerve, along with tingling and numbness, which may extend down to the knee. The pain radiating into the buttocks, thigh, and leg and often increases when engaging in normal activities such as walking or sitting for long periods. There may also be tenderness in the area of the sciatic nerve. The pain is most often one-sided affecting the buttocks and leg primarily but can often cause increased lower back pain.
How is Piriformis Syndrome Differentiated from Sciatica?
It is difficult to immediately diagnose piriformis syndrome as the related symptoms are virtually the same as sciatica and most often the diagnosis is made by exclusion. Symptoms are the same as those in sciatica, except that there is no compression of the spinal nerves. To being the diagnosis, one of our healthcare team members will take a full medical history and perform a physical examination, including standard tests to see if the movement of the piriformis muscle causes sciatic pain. Questions will be asked about activity levels, what increases and decreases the pain, where the pain is located and other questions that may indicate the source of the pain. An X-ray, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound or EMG may be used to rule out other causes of pain if warranted.
What are the Types of Treatments for Piriformis Syndrome?
Treatments for piriformis syndrome may include rest, a reduction in the activity or exercise that caused the injury or aggravates the condition, heat, and cold therapy, physical therapy, stretching exercises, core strengthening exercises, massage therapy, or ultrasound. Gait correction and orthotics may also be a recommendation to help the piriformis muscle to relax and heal.
We Can Help!
If you experience sciatic nerve pain, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the source of the pain.
Our expert team members are highly specialized spinal and body mechanic specialists. Our focus is to help rehabilitate and restore your body to optimal function. To achieve our high success rate, we have designed our state-of-the-art facility with an expert team who will be able to accomplish the individual care that you might for your ultimate success.
Have questions? Call today! Our team is ready to answer all of your important questions and help get you back to the quality of life your desire – pain-free!
For Your Health,
Dr. Joseph Gambardella, Dr. Todd Brown and Dr. Benjamin Erb