The piriformis muscle is one of the small muscles deep in the buttocks that runs in close proximity to the sciatic nerve. It runs from the sacrum bone at the bottom of the spine and attaches to the thigh bone or femur roughly near the outside crease of the buttocks. It plays a key role in stabilising the hip joint and helping to rotate and lift the thigh away from the body, enabling humans to walk and maintain balance.
It is usually overuse which causes the piriformis muscle to go into spasm resulting in pressure on the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight, it can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve. This irritation leads to sciatica-like pain, tingling and numbness that run from the lower back, to the rear and sometimes down the leg and into the foot. Also, this syndrome is a common cause of low back pain.
There is no diagnostic test for piriformis syndrome, although a history of long-distance running or prolonged sitting has been associated with it. Additionally it has received minimal recognition because it is often seen as a diagnosis of exclusion.
It is exercise from specific strengthening and stretching techniques that are necessary for treating this syndrome. When the piriformis muscle becomes stronger from exercise, it is much less likely to become injured and inflamed. It is also less likely to put pressure on the sciatic nerve by lengthening it from specific stretching techniques.
The following infographic provides information about selected exercises and piriformis stretches, which specifically strengthen this muscles effectively to alleviate piriformis syndrome.