Pain in the Butt – Understanding Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis Syndrome is a condition where a small muscle known as the piriformis muscle  spasms or contracts in a way that irritates the sciatic nerve.  This results in pain in the hip or buttocks region, though it may also shoot into the lower back and thigh as well.

What is this piriformis muscle and why is it such a pain in the butt — literally?

The piriformis is a small muscle that is responsible for the rotation of your hip and legs.  It is located deep inside the hip joining the sacrum and the femur bone (basically the lower back and the thigh).

The hip is a very complex joint made up of many muscles and tendons.  The piriformis is the small muscle in the middle of it all running over the sciatic nerve.

Piriformis Syndrome is primarily caused by tightening of the piriformis muscle causing it to crush the sciatic nerve.  This tightening can be the result of either overworking the muscle (as in training errors) or mechanical imbalances (poor posture, etc.).

Overworking the muscle is often attributed to athletes and others that participate in a good degree of physical exercise.  However many cases occur in people that live relatively sedentary lives rarely exerting themselves the way an athlete would.  These other overworking causes may include:  exercising on hard surfaces or uneven ground, beginning a fitness program too aggressively after not exercising for quite some time, increasing intensity too fast, wearing shoes that don’t fit you properly, or sitting for long periods of time (say, in a cubicle?).

Mechanical Imbalances are related to the structure of the body and its mechanisms.  Poor posture, herniated discs, or simply the manner with which you hold yourself or move your body as you walk can be responsible for this.

The symptom of Piriformis Syndrome is most commonly a deep pain within the hip or buttocks, but as stated earlier, this pain can also run into the thigh or lower back as well.  However, weakness and stiffness is also a rather common symptom as well (remember that Piriformis Syndrome is caused by an overworked or tense muscle).  Tingling and numbness in the legs can be experienced from time to time.

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