Understanding Piriformis Syndrome and How It Causes Sciatica-Like Symptoms

If someone feels pain, numbness, and weakness that radiates along the sciatic nerve ― which goes from the lower back and down both legs ― they may think it’s sciatica. However, this isn’t always the case. Piriformis syndrome can also be the culprit. The symptoms can mirror each other, and the only way to tell the difference is with a thorough examination from a health professional.

In this blog, Kenneth Varley, MD, at Southern Pain Specialists discusses what makes piriformis syndrome different from sciatica and how it can be treated.

The lowdown on piriformis syndrome

You have a piriformis muscle on each side of your body in the buttocks region. The piriformis muscle functions in helping lateral rotation of the hip joint, abducting the thigh when the hip is flexed. So it’s involved in pretty much every movement you make in your lower body, such as walking, rotating your hips, shifting your weight, and keeping your balance. 

Your sciatic nerve runs just below these muscles, all the way down the back of your legs and to your feet. If either of your piriformis muscles are injured, they can spasm and compress the sciatic nerve. This condition ― called piriformis syndrome ― can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness along the sciatic nerve. 

With sciatica, the condition is due to irritation of the sciatic nerve’s roots in the lower spine. With piriformis syndrome, on the other hand, the irritation to the sciatic nerve is due to the muscle spasms of the piriformis muscles.

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome 

Pain normally associated with sciatica is common with piriformis syndrome, including burning, tingling, or dull, aching pain. It will usually occur on one side of the body and make that side feel weak. 

With piriformis syndrome, pain often occurs in the buttocks as well, which will usually feel achy, tender, and can go numb. Pain is often more severe when sitting. Although, in severe cases, standing can be uncomfortable as well.

The cause of piriformis syndrome 

Overuse of the piriformis muscles can potentially lead to piriformis syndrome. Activities that might lead to piriformis syndrome include: 

Furthermore, sudden injuries to the legs or buttocks can cause spasms in the piriformis muscles.

Treatment for piriformis syndrome

If you’re suffering from sciatica-like symptoms as a result of piriformis syndrome, there are a number of treatment options available at Southern Pain Specialists, including:

There are also home remedies you can utilize, such as alternating ice and heat, performing approved exercises, and stretching. Though these treatments cannot cure piriformis syndrome, they can minimize your discomfort and make it easier for you to live your life.

If you have piriformis syndrome or want to see if you do, book an appointment online or over the phone with Southern Pain Specialists today. Dr. Varley can give you a thorough exam and get you started on treatment if needed.

You Might Also Enjoy...

When a Nerve Block is Right for You

Back pain is something you want to avoid. However, if it strikes, you want relief fast. Nerve blocks can stop the pain at the source. Keep reading to find out if a nerve block might be right for you.

Can Radiofrequency Ablation Treat My Nerve Pain?

Are you tired of dealing with chronic nerve pain in your spine? If nothing has helped, an alternative treatment may be just what you need. Read on to learn about radiofrequency ablation and how it can help.

Understanding the Risks of Developing Osteoporosis

The best way to fight osteoporosis — which is a condition that causes bones to weaken — is to keep from getting it in the first place. Read on to learn what the risk factors are and what you can do to keep your bones healthy.

Noticing the Signs of Peripheral Neuropathy

Do your feet fall asleep even when you don’t sit in a weird position? Have you suffered a burn that didn’t hurt as much as you thought it would? These things can happen with peripheral neuropathy, a condition that interferes with bodily signals.

Is Radiofrequency Ablation Safe?

You may have heard the term “radiofrequency ablation” and wondered what it was. Radiofrequency ablation is a safe treatment that can reduce or eliminate chronic pain. Read on to learn more.