If you’ve ever experienced pain in the buttock or hip region radiating down to the back of your legs, you’re likely suffering partially from a condition called piriformis syndrome. This is related to the piriformis, a muscle that extends from your sacrum (the mid-line base of your spine) towards the trochanter (outer hip bone). The muscles located in and around the gluteal region specifically help with:
- Rotation of the leg and hip
- Balance while one of the feet is off the ground
- Stability for the pelvic area
It goes without saying that these movements are required by runners, as well as everyone else for regular movement in day to day activities. In simple words, the piriformis muscle is an important one for all of us.
Common injuries that can occur to the Piriformis
Most athletes and sportspersons tend to suffer from injuries caused by repetitive motions. These are referred to as repetitive motion injury (RMI) and they commonly occur when:
- Muscles are asked to perform far beyond their capability levels.
- Muscles aren’t given enough time to the recover.
- Muscles are asked to perform the same action over and over again.
In all of these situations, the muscles typically respond by tightening themselves. This is a defensive response from the muscles and is a very common occurrence. This type of tightness, however, takes different forms in a runner. A runner who has piriformis syndrome may suffer from symptoms such as:
- Pain in as well as around the hip bone.
- The tightness in the muscle also produces increased tension between the bone and the tendon. In turn, this may produce direct pain and discomfort, or increased levels of tension within the joint which ultimately produces a bursitis.
- A bursitis is essentially inflammation of the joint’s fluid-filled sac, caused by increased levels of tension and stress within that particular joint.
- In some cases, the individual suffers from pain that’s centered on the median of the buttocks. Although this symptom isn’t as common as the other two, the pain may get aggravated, when the muscle compressed over the buttocks area. When a tight muscle gets compressed, that results in soreness in the muscle because of the reduced flow of blood to that particular muscle.
- The other symptom suggesting this syndrome is sciatic neuralgia- pain that radiates from the buttocks down towards the back of the legs. In some cases, the pain may radiate into different areas of the lower legs. The sciatic nerve runs right through the center of the piriformis muscle. Overuse of this particular muscle results in contraction, which in turn causes numbness, a tingling sensation as well as pain.
Diagnosing Piriformis Syndrome
There is no specific test for piriformis syndrome that can offer a definitive diagnosis. In most cases, the person has a history of some trauma to the region, prolonged sitting, vigorous activities like long-distance running and other similar repetitive activities. Diagnosis of this syndrome is made by the person’s report of the symptoms. The chiropractor will conduct a physical exam using a number of different movements that help elicit pain to the piriformis muscle. In some individuals, a tender or contracted piriformis muscle can be found when a physical exam is conducted by the expert.
Since the symptoms of this condition can be similar to other muscular conditions, the expert may suggest that am MRI (radiologic test) be done to rule out various other conditions such as herniated disc that could also be caused by compression of the sciatic nerve.