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Piriformis Syndrome

Have you ever experienced a “pain in your butt?” No, I don’t mean when your kids won’t go to bed or when you have to file your taxes. I’m talking about a very literal buttock pain known as Piriformis Syndrome.

What is the “piriformis”?

The piriformis is a small muscle that lies deep within the buttock region on both sides of the body. It starts in the lower spine and runs diagonally connecting to the upper part of the femur. The location of the piriformis is important because the Sciatic Nerve runs either underneath or through this muscle.

What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome is a condition caused by tightness or spasm of the piriformis muscle. This places direct pressure to the sciatic nerve underneath and causes pain typically on one side of the body. With this condition you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain, tingling, or numbness in the buttock
  • Deep throbbing sensations in the buttock, hip, or thigh
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling down the back of the thigh
  • Weakness in the muscles of your hip and leg
  • Limited movement of your hip
  • Pain that usually increases throughout the day


What causes it?

The piriformis usually becomes tight and spasms secondary to direct pressure caused by prolonged sitting positions (e.g. long drives or sitting at a desk all day). Piriformis syndrome can also be caused due to direct trauma (e.g. a fall) as well as repetitive activities (e.g. climbing the stairs, walking, or running).

How is it diagnosed?

There is no one specific test to confirm piriformis syndrome. It is typically diagnosed based on the patient’s report of symptoms, multiple objective assessments by your healthcare practitioner as well as diagnostic imaging if needed. Your practitioner must also rule out all other possible diagnoses that could result in similar symptoms. A correct diagnosis is crucial to developing the most optimal treatment plan. So, if you’re feeling a “pain in your butt”, contact a physiotherapist or chiropractor today!

Written by: Vanessa Younes, MScPT

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