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Piriformis Syndrome: A Pain In The Butt

Do you have unexplained pain in your lower back and hip? Does that pain radiate down the back of your leg to your knee or further?

You've seen your doctor, but they said they couldn't do anything to help. No one can find the source of your pain. If this sounds like you, you may be suffering from piriformis syndrome.

What is piriformis syndrome?

The piriformis is a flat muscle in your butt/hip area and is part of a group of muscles that rotates the hip. The piriformis can compress the sciatic nerve when over-contracted, leading to pain in the lower back and hip that radiates down the leg. This sciatic irritation is known as piriformis syndrome.

However, other muscles in the area can cause similar sciatic irritation. The piriformis is only one of them. Therefore, a more general term, Deep Gluteal Syndrome, is frequently used to describe sciatic nerve pain starting in the hip region.

What causes piriformis syndrome?

Some causes of piriformis syndrome are genetic, including scoliosis, differences in leg length, and abnormal muscle development.


Another cause of piriformis syndrome is prolonged lack of movement. When the glute muscles weaken, the piriformis works extra hard to compensate. This is especially true if you sit in positions that strain your muscles, including:

  • wallet in your back pocket

  • feet tucked under you

  • legs crossed

  • long stretches in a car

  • a less-than-ideal workspace (thank you, Covid.)

Other causes of an overworked piriformis include:

  • excessive vigorous exercise

  • unconscious tensing of muscles

  • overcompensation from another injury

How do you treat piriformis syndrome?


The best way to treat the problem is to

find the cause. But, unfortunately, that's easier said than done. Everyone has different routines, and our bodies all react differently.

First, stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. I know that sounds unhelpful, but both are necessary for reducing inflammation in the body. Applying heat to the area can also help tremendously.

Then it's time to start analyzing your routine. For example, when do you notice pain most often? What activities could be related? Do you live an active or sedentary lifestyle? Do you identify with any causes of piriformis syndrome listed above? What changes could you make that may affect your pain?

Can massage therapy help with piriformis syndrome?


Because our bodies react so differently, including to massage therapy, it's impossible to know for sure if it will help you until you try.

However, for most people in my practice, yes. Massage therapy has been beneficial to many clients presenting with the symptoms of piriformis syndrome. I've even seen clients experience immediate relief from a massage session.

Until Next Time

Massage therapy can help many problems and is part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle, but it isn't magic. However, you can implement several essential habits to manage your pain and improve your health, and I created a free downloadable PDF to make it easy for you. So grab your copy of 5 Easy Steps to Better Health, book your next massage, and start becoming a healthier version of yourself today.

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