Piriformis syndrome is a condition that many people are unaware of until it impacts them or someone they know. While rare, the condition does affect 200,000 people in the United States each year and requires a medical diagnosis. Before we go into the symptoms of piriformis syndrome, let's first look at "what's piriformis syndrome".
What's Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is a condition where you feel pain in your buttocks and many people feel numbness in the area, too. The symptoms occur in the back of the leg and result from the piriformis muscle pressing onto your sciatic nerve.
For many people, the symptoms are very similar to sciatica.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with this condition than men. Since the piriformis muscle is so prominent, it's used for virtually all of the movements that you make with your lower extremities.
Causes of Piriformis Syndrome
Piriformis sits atop the sciatic nerve. In fact, the muscle goes from the foot up to your lower spine. If you injure the muscle or overuse it, muscle spasms also follow. In addition to the spasms, swelling will also begin.
Some sufferers will also experience a tightening of the muscle.
The pain you experience from piriformis syndrome results from the swelling or tightness pressing on the sciatic nerve, causing pain in the process.
A few of the many causes of piriformis syndrome include:
- Walking up stairs often
- Repetitive activity, such as running
- Long periods of sitting
- Improper lifting of heavy items
Since the piriformis is a muscle, it can easily become injured or irritated with something as simple as an improper movement or running up the stairs the wrong way. Repetitive movements, which put stress on the muscle, can also lead to this condition.
Additionally, you may suffer from piriformis syndrome if you experience any of the following:
- Fall, which injures or irritates the muscle
- Car accident where the muscle is injured
- Penetrating wounds
Since there are many causes of piriformis syndrome, the doctor will want to try and diagnose the condition with a simple examination, medical history review and by taking an inventory of the symptoms you're experiencing.
Symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome
While piriformis syndrome often impacts a single side of the body, there are times when a person will have pain on both sides. You may experience one or a combination of the following symptoms:
- Dull aches and pain in the buttocks
- Numb feeling from the buttock down the entire leg
- Tingling sensation along the muscle
Some people find that their pain is manageable, while others will experience pain that is so intense that it becomes disabling. Pain may worsen with the more activity you do or if you sit for prolonged periods.
Since the pain is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, the symptoms are very similar to those that you would experience with traditional sciatica.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the pain and loss of quality of life. Even very fit individuals may start to lose range of motion and quality of life due to the condition. In the most extreme cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to help alleviate pressure on the nerve.
However, your doctor may also recommend:
- Electrical stimulation to stop muscle spasms and help reduce pain
- Muscle relaxants that allow the muscle to loosen and relax
- Ice and heat rotations to relax the muscle
- Changes in posture and sitting to relieve pain
If the condition is due to repetitive movements, the doctor may ask you to stop performing these activities or adapt them to better manage your symptoms. In many cases, ceasing the activities that irritate the muscle will be enough to provide substantial relief.
Piriformis Syndrome Natural Remedies
Since piriformis syndrome may or may not respond to pain relievers or muscle relaxants, many people seek out piriformis syndrome natural remedies to alleviate pain.
- Lemongrass Essential Oils. Lemongrass is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and may help stop the inflammation that is putting pressure on your sciatic nerve. One study on mice shows how effective this oil is for relieving inflammation.
- Lavender Essential Oils. Studies on lavender's ability to help with sciatic nerve pain are not available. However, multiple studies show that the oil can help alleviate muscle pain. If you don't have this essential oil in your at-home kit already, it's a great addition that can help treat numerous ailments.
- Chamomile Essential Oils. German and Roman chamomile are two essential oils that are known for their relaxing properties. You can also drink chamomile tea for similar benefits. However, chamomile has been shown in studies to reduce both inflammation and muscle spasms. Since the two are common for sufferers of piriformis syndrome, this is a potent addition to any topical form of treatment. Just be sure to use a carrier oil.
- Sandalwood Oils. A popular essential oil known for its very potent antioxidant properties. Studies have been done on the oil's ability to help relieve inflammation, and it works very well. There is additional evidence that this oil may help provide pain relief, too.
- Ginger. Whether you eat ginger or use ginger oil, there are studies showing just how effective ginger is at relieving inflammation. If you've irritated your muscle and inflammation is causing pressure on your nerve, ginger can help. In fact, many people use ginger oil to find relief from arthritis.
Piriformis syndrome natural remedies have not been studied extensively, so the best you can do is use the remedies that you know help relieve pain and inflammation. Chamomile offers the additional benefit of helping relieve muscle spasms.
Of course, there are other natural remedies for piriformis syndrome that you can include in your daily routine, such as:
- Icing the area for 15 minutes at a time, and then alternating with heat
- Avoidance of activities that enhance the pain
- Massage therapy
- Stretches to relieve muscle tension
The symptoms of piriformis syndrome can be managed. Many people will not need surgery, and the condition will resolve on its own as long as there is no added strain or irritation on the muscle.
If you've tried using natural remedies for piriformis syndrome and still experience pain, contact your physician.
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