Piriformis syndrome is a common injury that usually affects runners. It is often described as a pain from the hip shooting down to the back of the leg and radiating up to the hamstring. Not only does piriformis syndrome affect training and performance for a running event, it also affects daily activities like walking and sitting.
Piriformis syndrome is quiet tricky and if not addressed soon, it can become reoccurring. Nevertheless, the condition is usually reversible with the right care and stretches. Learn how you can beat piriformis syndrome pain from home.
Piriformis syndrome triggers
Piriformis syndrome’s symptoms may include painful buttocks, aching lower legs, and burning or tingling pain which may worsen when sitting for a long time or during activities.
The most common cause of piriformis syndrome is shortening or tightening of the piriformis muscles due to either biomechanical inefficiencies or training errors. Training errors such as running on hard surfaces, increased activity intensity, getting back to intensive sport after a long period of sedentary lifestyle and wearing the wrong footwear may cause this condition. Faulty body mechanics, poor posture, bad sitting habit and gait disturbances may also lead to piriformis syndrome.
Left untreated, pain from piriformis syndrome will worsen to a point where it becomes too difficult to even walk. To help you recover, we have a few tips you can do.
Piriformis Syndrome Relief: Do’s
- Rest, ice, and heat to help relieve pain and other symptoms. Rest is the universal reliever for all types of body injuries, and it also applies to piriformis syndrome. Ice helps by freezing the muscles affected. Finally, heat from a hot compress stimulates healing by increasing blood circulation.
- Perform exercises and stretches as prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist. There are exercise and stretch programs for relieving pain from piriformis syndrome. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist for correct and proper execution.
- Take anti-inflammatory medications or steroid injections. If the pain proves to be too much to bear, over-the-counter prescription drugs can be taken.
In addition, we also have several reminders one should NOT when suffering from piriformis syndrome. These are listed below.
Piriformis Syndrome Relief: Don’ts
- Avoid positions that trigger pain. Certain body positions use the affected muscles and thus trigger pain. To avoid this as well as further aggravating the injured muscles, avoid these positions which include reading in bed, sitting on the floor, or any other position where weight is pushed to the buttock muscles.
- Cease activities that aggravate the affected area. We mentioned earlier that rest is recommended not just for healing but also to prevent worsening the injury. Rest includes ceasing all activities utilizing the affected muscles. Thus, if used to running at a certain distance, reduce it by more than half including the intensity. Avoid exercises like lunges, twisting sideways and forceful rotation with weight placed on one leg.
- Do not ignore possible symptoms, especially from piriformis trigger points. There are piriformis syndrome cases ending in patients getting hip replacements, because they ignored the pain. Do not ignore the pain especially if felt in muscle groups associated with piriformis syndrome. Get treatment immediately.
Start with a good first aid
Effective piriformis syndrome treatment begins with proper first aid. The first 48 to 72 hours of the injury is critical and pain experts suggest RICE therapy (RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as first aid for this condition.
Doing the RICE principle helps for better and fast recovery. Rest is essentially needed the first 3 days of injury. Ice the painful area after an activity caused pain. After the first 24 hours, alternate heat and ice therapy for better blood circulation. Compression and elevation also help reduce the amount of blood flow to the injured area, accelerating the healing process.
Gradual and light exercises days after the injury are essential to heal and re-strengthen the piriformis muscle. The thing about doing piriformis exercises is that it is hard to reach the area because it runs from your spine to your thigh bone. But there are actually easy routines to stretch the piriformis:
Exercise 1: Easy Clam Stretch
Lie on your side with back straight and one foot laid top of the other. Keep your knees in line with your back. Slowly bend your knees without bending your spine. Now lift your top knee, slowly moving it away from your bottom knee without lifting the ankles. You should feel stretches on your hips not the pelvis or back. Repeat the movement 10 times.
Exercise 2: Piriformis Jump Squats
Place both hands behind your head. Straighten elbows so they are in line with the shoulders. Slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Jump high. When you get back to the floor, repeat the routine.
Exercise 3: Easy Piriformis Stretch
Lie on your back with legs laid straight. Slowly lift the affected leg, bending the knee. Use your opposite hand to reach across your body and gently pull your knee towards the opposite shoulder. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat the other side. Do 5 stretches for each side.
Exercise 4 Leg Stretch
Lie flat on your back. Keep both feet flat to the ground. Slowly bend your knees. Place your right ankle to the knee on the left leg. Pull your left thigh towards your chest. Hold for about 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Exercise 5 Seated and Supine Stretches
Livestrong.com recommends seated and supine stretches to relieve piriformis syndrome pain. To do this:
Sit in a chair with both legs in front of you and feet on the floor. Cross the ankle of the affected leg over the opposite knee. Wrap your arms around your knee and foot, as if cradling the lower leg, and lift them until you feel a stretch deep in the buttock. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat at least four times. Perform the same move on your back. Lie on your back with both legs straight. Bring the knee of the affected leg to your chest and then push it over to the opposite shoulder with your hands until you feel a stretch deep in the buttock. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat at least four times.
Flexibility and re-strengthening
Flexibility and strength are the two core things if you want to pain-proof your piriformis muscle. Loosening the piriformis relaxes the muscles and helps better circulation as well as enhances flexibility
Runners World recommends these routines:
Flexibility: To do a simple piriformis flexibility stretch, stand with feet at shoulder-width apart. Keep the right heel on the ground and rotate toes to the left then back to the starting point (pointing ahead). Repeat both feet 10 times.
Strengthening. It’s about strengthening the rare muscles. Begin by putting an ankle weight on your thigh then bend the right leg at a 90-degree angle. Keep the right hip and shoulder on the ground and lift your right leg. Cross the right leg over the center of your body. Hold this position for a second then go back to the starting position. Do this stretch for 10 times on both legs.
Get permanent relief with the help from professionals
Some patients may feel extreme pain or discomfort may not be able to perform these exercises. If you are in this situation, the best step is to consult a qualified clinician who can evaluate the right piriformis syndrome treatment according to your specific needs.
Contact MVMT Physio & Chiro for a no obligation appointment and learn about the right piriformis syndrome treatment for you. ‘)}