Piriformis Syndrome: How to Manage This Lower-Body Pain Disorder

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1. INTRODUCTION

Do you ever experience shooting lower back pains, pain in your hips and buttocks area, or a tingling or numbness that extends down to your feet? If so, there’s a chance you have piriformis syndrome.

Piriformis syndrome is a type of painful neuromuscular disorder that affects the hips, butt and thighs. It’s caused from spasms in the small piriformis muscle compressing against the sciatic nerve, a thick nerve that runs down the length of the legs. Sciatica (a common disorder characterized by frequent sciatic nerve pain) and piriformis syndrome are closely related and cause many of the same symptoms, although most cases of sciatic nerve pain are not actually due to piriformis syndrome. (1)

The piriformis muscle, a small muscle located near the hip joint behind the buttocks (the gluteus maximus), has many important functions when it comes to balance, joint stabilization and movement of the lower body. In fact, it’s involved in nearly every function of the hip/buttocks, which is why piriformis syndrome can be really disruptive and aggravating. Responsible for helping the hip joint lift, rotate and move, the piriformis muscle connects the lower spine to the tops of the thighs and facilitates walking, lifting objects and many other everyday activities we depend on. (2)

The sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle, and the two haves many similar roles — so it’s not uncommon for sciatic nerve pain and piriformis syndrome to be confused with one another. The sciatic nerve runs down the back of the leg all the way to the feet, and like the piriformis muscle, it can become overused, leaving you susceptible to numbness, muscle spasms and chronic pain in the surrounding areas. Once diagnosed, piriformis syndrome is usually treated first with anti-inflammatory and antispasmatic medications. Then, a combination of physical therapy, yoga, stretching and taking time to properly recover from straining movements can all keep the pain away. Read on for the ways you can manage this painful disorder naturally.

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Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine and operates one of the world's largest natural health websites: www.DrAxe.com. He is the author of the groundbreaking health book Eat Dirt, which uncovers the hidden causes and cures of leaky gut syndrome. Dr. Axe is an expert in digestive health, functional medicine, natural remedies and dietary strategies for healing. He has been featured on many television shows, including the Dr. Oz Show, CBS and NBC, and has his own Eat Dirt program running on select PBS TV stations. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has been a physician for many professional athletes. DrAxe.com is one of the most visited websites worldwide for healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, essential oils, and natural supplements.