Muscle of the Month : The Piriformis

When patients come into our office with low back pain or symptoms resembling sciatica one of the muscles we check in on is the piriformis. During the examination we will check on range of motion and strength of different muscles to see if we can narrow down where the pain/discomfort is coming from. It is usually not just one muscle that is tight or restricting but the piriformis is tight in most if not all in our patients.

The piriformis  is a flat, pyramid-shaped muscle that lies parallel to (in line with) the gluteus medius and underneath the gluteus maximus muscle in the hip area.The muscle passes through the greater sciatic foramen (a space in the pelvic bones, on each side of the center) and to the upper part of the greater trochanter (a bone ridge near the top of the femur, or thigh bone). It takes up the most area in the greater sciatic foramen.

It is a small muscle when compared to other muscles of the region. The piriformis helps rotate the hip and works with other rotators. It will rotate the thigh while extended and will abduct, or pull inward, the thigh when flexed.

The close nature of the piriformis muscle to the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the human body, can cause pain in some individuals. This known as piriformis syndrome.  This pain can run from the buttocks to the lower back and in some cases down the leg into the ankle. The more joints the nerve passes thru with pain the longer the recovery. This condition can happen to anyone and can worsen with prolonged sitting, sedentary lifestyle, other muscles not working or “firing” correctly and if the problem is not addressed as soon as possible.

Treatment to help reduce the pain in the piriformis

  • Physical therapy to increase range of motion and to help strengthen the low back, core etc.
  • Chiropractic care to make sure there are no subluxations and that the body is in proper alignment.
  • Massage therapy to help relax the muscles from spasming
  • Low Level Light Therapy (Cold Laser) to reduce any inflammation that is being caused in the body.

Pictured below is a great stretch to help loosen the piriformis.  For more information on how to stretch, visit here.

If you are not sure if you are experiencing any of these symptoms mentioned above and are not sure what to do we are offering a free consultation with one of our doctors to see if we can help. Please call the office at 847-362-4476 so we can stop it in its tracks!!


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