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Piriformis syndrome is a relatively common diagnosis given to someone who has pain in the glutes or buttocks. Here at The Mayfair Clinic we prefer treating pain in that reason as an extension of a lower back problem, simply because it usually is. Today we’re going to explain why our approach works, when you can look at the piriformis muscle as a potential problem, and what you can do to treat it at home as if it’s a lower back problem to see results.

Where Is The Piriformis Muscle & What Is Piriformis Syndrome?

The piriformis muscle is a very small muscle located underneath the glutes. There is a small gap underneath this muscle where the sciatic nerve runs through to travel down the legs. As such as a small muscle in a group of lots of other muscles, it can be very confusing as to why this particular muscle is often blamed as a root of the problem, usually when the muscle goes into spasm. However, these symptoms are synonymous with a problem in your lumbar spine, which is exactly why we tend to look at the lower back when taking into account the whole situation. Muscles don’t spasm for no particular reason. In fact, they spasm as a protective mechanism against an injury. You may be diagnosed as having piriformis syndrome if you have pain in the buttocks, or sciatic pain that is not accompanied by lower back pain, as it’s often thought the piriformis can tighten up and irritate the sciatic nerve. However, it is very common to experience these symptoms, not have lower back pain and still have an issue in the lower back, simply because of the injury referring pain down into the leg.

Why Can Lower Back Problems Cause Pain In The Piriformis Muscle?

If piriformis syndrome is treated as a condition in its own right, rather than a symptom of another problem, it may be difficult to see the back of in the long-term. The piriformis muscle attaches onto the lower back, which can explain why it would go into spasm if there was a problem around the L5-S1 region. This area is a common place for injury of the lumbar spine, as it’s frequently subjected to stress and strain from everyday activities that involve rounding of the spine. If we’re frequently sitting with poor posture, lifting weights with poor form, or just lifting things throughout the day by bending at the waist rather than hinging at the hips, these are all ways that you can round your back and compress the discs in your spine.

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Any condition such as a slipped disc, spondylolisthesis or just increased compression or irritation can send signals to the brain that there is something not quite right. Some of these signals can then cause the muscle to tighten and why it may also affect the sciatic nerve as they’re controlled in similar regions of the spine. The only reason here at The Mayfair Clinic that we might look at the piriformis muscle as being the root of the problem, would be if the patient had a perfect lumbar spine that shows no degeneration or misalignment.

How Can This Pain Be Treated?

If we instead treat the lumbar spine, starting off by simply learning how to engage the core properly and basic stretching would be our first port of call. A lower back problem can often make you feel stiff or generally inflexible, so we would show you stretches you can do that are isolated to the intended area we’re looking to stretch. Our membership area at www.backinshapeapp.com is free to join, and details these stretches we would recommend in the first instance. It is all too common to perform stretches that incorporate different areas of the body as well as the area you’re trying to stretch, but this is ineffective. We’d then recommend moving on to our phase 2 section, where the emphasis is on strengthening the lower body and core muscles to ensure they’re much more durable in the future. With pain affecting the piriformis region, you may wish to go easier on the hip stretches, but these would be helpful in the short-term before moving on to the strengthening. We also recommend our towel stretch to form a part of the protocol, which is essentially where you take a rolled up towel, roughly the size of a foam roller and lie on it for around 3-5 minutes to decompress and take the pressure off your lower back joints and muscles. This stretch can be very helpful if your piriformis pain is being caused by irritation or compression of a disc. We’d also recommend against doing any form of stretching that involves forward flexion, for example knee hugs, as these would further compress the lower back despite claiming to stretch out the piriformis muscle if done in a certain way.

We hope this article today has been helpful for you! If you have any questions about piriformis syndrome or if you’d like to share your experience with us if you’ve been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome in the past, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach out to us via email at info@themayfairclinic.com, through our social channels, or by tuning in to our livestreams that take place every weekday on our Facebook and YouTube channels. If you are suffering with these symptoms, do make sure to sign up to our membership area for free to take advantage of the lessons we teach on mistakes you might be making at home, as well as relief exercises and stretches you can do right now. Sign up by visiting www.backinshapeapp.com.

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