Is Piriformis Syndrome Causing Your Lower Back Pain?
More than 80% of people in the US will have one episode or more of low back pain throughout their lifetime. You probably know someone who has suffered from low back pain or, you have most likely suffered from it yourself. When your back pain persists and starts having an effect on everyday activities, it may be turning into a chronic problem. Understanding the root cause of your pain (like piriformis syndrome) can help you and your chiropractor or physician find the right diagnosis and treatment. Piriformis Syndrome is fairly common, and about 200,000 cases are reported each year in the U.S.
There are different types and causes of low back pain and I am going to discuss one of the least diagnosed: Piriformis Syndrome.
What is Piriformis Syndrome?
The piriformis muscle is located deep within your buttock and stretches between the pelvis and the upper thigh bone (femur). The piriformis plays an important part in stabilizing the hip and helps with rotation, extension, and abduction. Basically, it’s involved in any type of movement the hips and legs need to do.
When the piriformis muscle is overused or irritated it can get inflamed or go into spasm. If the muscles surrounding it is weak, they do not give optimal support to the piriformis muscle. This can cause you to compensate for movement and irritation may occur.
Right below your piriformis, you will find the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis starts compressing onto the sciatic nerve because of spasms and irritation, it can cause low back pain. This type of back pain is known as piriformis syndrome. It is important to note that piriformis syndrome is not the same as Sciatica (low back pain caused by sciatic nerve pain), but the symptoms can be quite similar.
What are the Causes of Piriformis Syndrome?
It is reported that piriformis syndrome is almost five times more likely to affect females than males. Piriformis can develop because of trauma to the area or repetitive activity like sitting for a long period of time or long-distance running.
You might be at risk of developing piriformis syndrome if you practice sports like tennis, running, skiing, cycling or if your job involves sitting for extended periods, like driving in the car or sitting at a desk.
What are the Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome imitates the symptoms of low back pain but can also include the following symptoms:
- Chronic pain in the buttocks and lower back
- Numbness and tingling sensations in the buttocks
- Pain that radiates from the back all the way down the leg to the foot
- Sitting for a long time, resulting in pain
- Pain when getting out of bed
- Pain with bowel movements
- Groin pain
The best way to differentiate piriformis syndrome from other back issues is by the symptoms of tenderness and pain across the gluteal (buttock) region.
Treatments for Piriformis Syndrome
Once you are diagnosed, you will have to stop any activities that can aggravate the muscle. You should rest the area and apply heat and compression. You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant medications, but chiropractic care and physical therapy are the better treatments long-term. The good news is Let’s look at some natural treatments that may form part of a rehabilitation program.
- Chiropractic treatment
Once your diagnosis is confirmed to be piriformis syndrome, functional chiropractic care can be used to loosen and stretch muscles throughout the body to help relieve spasms on the piriformis muscle. Lite-cure laser treatment can also help heal the tissues around the inflamed area.
- Laser Therapy
For advanced pain relief, chiropractic clinics also offer laser therapy. The laser is a deep tissue non-invasive treatment option that has the power to eliminate or significantly reduce your pain. Five to ten brief treatments with this powerful laser are all it takes to realize life-changing results.
The laser works by flooding the tissues with photons, energizing the damaged cells, and increasing circulation to the painful area. This produces a cascade of healing responses in your body, reducing inflammation, thereby reducing or even eliminating your pain. Treatments take just a few minutes. However, the therapeutic effect continues to soothe and heal long after the procedure. There is no discomfort during treatment, only a deep, gentle warmth as your body’s cells respond to the light. There are no known side effects. It is a non-invasive therapy with long-lasting results.
- Soft tissue massage
Soft tissue massage can help loosen up the muscle and reduce spasms in the buttocks and back.
- Gentle stretching
Your chiropractor or physical therapist may prescribe gentle stretching exercises for you to do at home that will gradually help stretch and strengthen the muscle.
- Self-care at home
Taking a hot bath may relieve some of the stress on the muscle. You can even add some Epsom salts to your bath that releases magnesium into the water and can be absorbed by the body. You can also use a foam roller to help you self-massage the injured area at home.
Hip-opening yoga poses can help to gently stretch the piriformis muscle. Poses like pigeon can be especially beneficial.
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine needles into ‘pressure points’ across the body and affected area to help reduce muscle spasm and increase blood flow to the injured part.
- Natural supplements
You can add some natural supplements to your rehabilitation that will support joint health, like omega fish oils, and help with inflammation, like turmeric. Magnesium is also a great mineral to supplement because it helps ease out cramps. Rubs containing topical magnesium or arnica may also help relieve pain when applied to the affected region.
Remember to always seek medical help if any of your piriformis syndrome symptoms worsen.
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