Accessibility Tools

What Is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular condition that occurs when the piriformis muscle, a small band of tissue located deep within the buttocks, spasms and compresses the sciatic nerve. The spasms may result from overuse, which can be caused by long-distance running, sitting on hard surfaces or other movements and positions that strain the piriformis muscle.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, running from the lumbar spine through the buttocks and down the back of each leg. When compressed, this nerve can produce a group of uncomfortable symptoms known collectively as sciatica.

Signs of sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome

When piriformis syndrome causes sciatica, the initial symptoms usually include an ache deep within the buttocks, hip pain and tingling sensations that run down the back of one leg. The discomfort typically worsens when firm pressure is applied directly over the piriformis muscle. This can occur during extended sitting, stair climbing and running.

It’s important to note that piriformis syndrome is just one cause of sciatica — it is not the only cause. Furthermore, piriformis syndrome is relatively uncommon. There are many other conditions that can lead to sciatica, some of which are potentially serious, such as a fracture, infection or spinal stenosis. Therefore, it’s essential to see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis if sciatica occurs.

How is sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome treated?

After confirming that piriformis syndrome is the underlying cause of sciatica, a physician may recommend activity modification to avoid positions that trigger pain. Limited rest, ice and heat applications and anti-inflammatory medications can also help relieve symptoms – often to the point that a patient is able to participate in a targeted physical therapy program designed to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. In general, surgical treatment is viewed as a last resort for addressing very severe sciatica.

At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, we find that most of our patients are able to effectively manage their sciatica without surgery. And, when surgery is required, our spine surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures whenever appropriate. Our approach offers several advantages over traditional open surgery, including a lower risk of complications and a faster recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about piriformis syndrome and sciatica treatment, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. We welcome patients from the Houston, Texas, area to visit any of our three convenient locations.