Piriformis Syndrome

What is Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis Syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder characterised by pain, numbness, or tingling in the buttock and along the path of the sciatic nerve descending down the back of the thigh and into the leg.

It occurs when the piriformis muscle, a small muscle located in the buttock region, compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve. This muscle extends from the lower spine to the upper surface of each femur (thighbone) and is necessary for movement in the lower body.

Signs and Symptoms

The main symptom of Piriformis Syndrome is a sensation of pain felt in the buttock. This is often described as aching or burning, localised in the buttock area. It typically affects one side of the body and can vary in intensity, ranging from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation.

Other symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome may include:

  • Lower Body Pain: Pain from the buttock area can extend down the thigh and along the leg, following the path of the sciatic nerve. This can cause weakness in the legs, thighs and calves.
  • Numbness or Tingling: Individuals may experience sensations of numbness or tingling in the affected buttock, thigh, and leg areas.
  • Aggravation by Specific Activities: Symptoms typically worsen during activities involving the hip, such as prolonged sitting, walking, climbing stairs, or twisting movements.
  • Challenges in Sustained Sitting: It could be difficult to sit for extended periods of time, due to pain and weakness. Standing up could also trigger pain in the leg.

While the symptoms are similar to those of sciatica, Piriformis Syndrome is due to the compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle, not broader spinal issues. Consult our doctor for a diagnosis of your condition, to help differentiate between the two conditions for effective treatment and recovery.

Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding the causes of Piriformis Syndrome can help identify the modifiable behaviours and inherent risk factors to help manage and prevent the condition.

Injury or Trauma

Falls, accidents, or direct impacts to the buttock region can lead to the development of Piriformis Syndrome.

Prolonged Sitting

Extended periods of sitting, especially on hard surfaces or with poor posture, can irritate the piriformis muscle.

Overuse in Activities

Activities involving repetitive motion, such as certain sports (fencing, soccer) or occupations, can strain the piriformis muscle.

Insufficient Warm-up or Stretching

Lack of proper warm-up before exercise and inadequate stretching can predispose the muscle to injury.

Lifting Heavy Objects

Improper lifting techniques can strain the piriformis muscle and surrounding tissues.

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Treatment Modalities

Pain Medication (Pharmacotherapy)

This involves the use of medications such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and other specialised medications designed for pain management. The type and dosage are tailored to the individual’s condition and medical history.


Minimally invasive treatments aim to effectively relieve common pain conditions by targeting pain sources.

  • Coreflex Injections: Typically contain a corticosteroid and are used for inflamed joints or tissues.
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections: Utilise own platelets to promote healing in damaged tissues.
  • Intra Articular Injections: Most commonly used to treat osteoarthritis in the hip or knee, but they can also be given in other joints, including shoulders, wrists, ankles, hands, and fingers.

For chronic pain conditions originating from spinal issues, Neurospan can be performed by our team of pain specialists from Singapore Paincare Center.

Prevention Strategies

Incorporating prevention strategies into daily routines can reduce the risk of developing Piriformis Syndrome and help those with the condition effectively manage their symptoms.

  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in consistent physical activity can help maintain muscle health and flexibility.
  • Proper Posture: Maintaining good posture, especially when sitting or standing, can help reduce strain on the piriformis muscle.
  • Stretching and Warm-up: Before any physical activity or exercise, proper warm-up and stretching are necessary to prepare the muscles.
  • Breaks from Prolonged Sitting: Avoid sitting for an extended period of time. Taking regular breaks to stand, walk, or stretch can help alleviate pressure on the piriformis muscle.
  • Lifting Techniques: Learning and applying proper lifting techniques can prevent undue stress on the lower back and buttock muscles.

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    What is Piriformis Syndrome?

    Piriformis Syndrome is a condition where the piriformis muscle compresses the sciatic nerve, causing pain, numbness, or tingling in the buttock and along the leg.

    Can Piriformis Syndrome be cured?

    Most cases respond well to non-surgical treatments like physical therapy, stretching, and medication.

    Is Piriformis Syndrome the same as Sciatica?

    No, while they share similar symptoms, Piriformis Syndrome is specifically caused by the piriformis muscle impacting the sciatic nerve, unlike broader causes of sciatica.

    What activities should be avoided with Piriformis Syndrome?

    Activities that exacerbate the pain, like prolonged sitting, repetitive hip movements, or improper lifting, should be minimised.

    How can I prevent Piriformis Syndrome?

    Regular exercise, proper posture, stretching, taking breaks from prolonged sitting, and correct lifting techniques can help prevent it.

    What are the long-term effects of Piriformis Syndrome if left untreated?

    If not properly managed, Piriformis Syndrome can lead to chronic pain and discomfort, potentially affecting mobility and quality of life. Chronic irritation of the sciatic nerve can also result in persistent numbness or weakness in the affected leg.

    Are certain individuals more prone to developing Piriformis Syndrome?

    Yes, individuals who engage in activities with repetitive motion of the hips or prolonged sitting, like runners or office workers, are at higher risk. Anatomical variations in the sciatic nerve’s path can also predispose some people to this condition.

    Can lifestyle changes help manage Piriformis Syndrome?

    Lifestyle modifications can help prevent Piriformis Syndrome. This includes adopting ergonomically supportive seating, incorporating regular stretching and strengthening exercises, maintaining a healthy weight to reduce strain on the body, and ensuring proper posture during daily activities.