Piriformis Syndrome: Literally a Pain in the Ass!

I believe it started because I damaged my piriformis muscle by unwittingly running long distances, without doing any sort of strength training at the gym or doing any stretches.

At first, I ignored the pain in my buttock. But, eventually, I couldn’t because it got worse. It was just in one spot. It’s a burning pain. It was too uncomfortable to sit or walk around. In fact, sometimes sitting too long can trigger it off, even now.

I stopped running and yes, the pain reduced. So, I decided a few years ago to give up running completely, which upset me so much.

I made a few attempts to restart my running but of course, the pain returned.

A few years ago, I started a physically demanding job. After a few months, the pain came back with a vengeance. It got so bad that I distantly remember holding on to the bannister to help me walk up a flight of stairs. And, l was getting lower back pain.

So what helped?

Believe it or not, going to the gym helped me. Before everyone groans, at one time, I would have rather stick pins in my eyes than go to the gym! However, I decided to try it.

After a couple of months or so, I noticed a huge reduction in the pain. In fact, it helped so much, I started running again and last year, I ran my first half marathon!

I still get it from time to time but it’s manageable. I take Ibuprofen when the pain is severe and, I believe that a good diet and exercise is essential to maintain a healthy back.

What is Piriformis Syndrome (PS)?

Not to be confused with sciatica, your piriformis is a muscle that begins at the lower spine and connects to your femur. It helps to move your hip, leg and foot.

If this muscle gets damaged or irritated, it spasms causing pain. Also, if it is too close to to your sciatic nerve, these spasms can irritate it and cause pain, numbness and tingling n other parts of your body below the waist.

What can cause PS?

Sitting for too long. Yes, you’ve read that right. Sitting on your wallet which is in your back pocket for long periods, even more so.

Some people are unlucky to have their sciatic nerve travelling through their piriformis muscle, therefore, it is easy to damage.

Overuse of this muscle, like running long distances, as I did.

How to manage PS.

As in some cases, prevention is better than cure.

Regular stretching. Check out my video at the end of this post, where I’ll demonstrate a couple of stretches for your piriformis, complete with my messy hair, (I’d just been for a run), and in my messy lounge.

There is some evidence that eating anti-inflammatory foods may help with easing back pain and related issues. (See my Inflammation post for more). Foods like:-

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Nuts
  • Red grapes
  • Olive oil
  • Thyme
  • Soya products
  • Edamame beans
  • Oily fish
  • Cherries
  • Green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Foods with whole grains

Foods to avoid.

  • Vegetable oils
  • Foods with corn syrup
  • Foods high in saturated and trans fats

Piriformis Syndrome is unpleasant and impacts your daily activities. Exercise and eating foods with anti-inflammatory effects can help to reduce the likelihood of flare-ups.

Over the counter medications, ice packs or hot packs and sports massages can help the pain.

Sources: spine-health.com, newsmax.com, webmd.com, chirocareflorida.com, everydayhealth.com, healthcentral.com, health.harvard.edu, spinemd.com, spinal backtrack.com

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