Most of us have experienced a muscle spasm at one point or another, and for some, having them may be a regular occurrence. In most cases the spasm comes and goes fairly quickly, without creating much more than a minor inconvenience or a short break from activity. Other types of muscle spasms, however, can be much more serious and lead to bothersome symptoms that won’t go away. One example is called piriformis syndrome, which is a spasm of a muscle in the buttocks. Though uncommon, this condition can be easily missed and create more problems down the road, which is why our New York City physical therapists would like to help you better understand how to recognize and treat it.
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks, behind the gluteus maximus and near the top of the joint. It starts at the lower spine and connects to the upper surface of each femur (thighbone), and it runs diagonally, with the sciatic nerve running vertically directly behind it. The piriformis muscle’s main function is assisting in hip rotation and turning the leg and foot outward.
Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder in which the piriformis muscle spasms and causes a number of symptoms. The exact cause of piriformis syndrome has not yet been identified, but experts believe that it’s either due to a spasm in the piriformis muscle itself or because of some irritation of a nearby structure, such as the hip. It may also be due to a tightening or swelling of the piriformis muscle that can be due to injury, or bleeding around this muscle.
Any one or a combination of these problems can affect the piriformis and cause pain that is confined to the buttocks. But for some individuals, the pain can be more severe and extend down the length of the sciatic nerve into the leg and foot. This may happen when the spasming piriformis muscle presses on the sciatic nerve right next to it during movements like running or sitting, and this will often result in pain, tingling or numbness in the back of the thigh, calf or foot. When this occurs, it can be easily mistaken for spinal problems that cause sciatic pain like a herniated disc, and many patients are incorrectly treated for the wrong condition because of this.
See our New York City physical therapists to receive the proper diagnosis
This shows why it’s so crucial to see an expert in the field to properly diagnose a condition like piriformis syndrome. At Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy, our New York City physical therapists are well aware of the symptoms and indications of piriformis syndrome, and will focus carefully to identify it and then treat it appropriately. Stretching and strengthening the piriformis muscle is the best way to address this condition, and our treatment programs usually consist of the following:
- Pain relieving modalities like ice, heat, ultrasound and iontophoresis
- Stretching exercises that focus on the outer hip and piriformis muscle
- Strengthening exercises for these same muscle groups such as the hip extension, side-lying clam and resistance band exercises
- Deep massage and soft-tissue mobilization to alleviate pain and increase flexibility
- Acupuncture, which will help to increase blood flow and promote soft tissue release and healing
- Education on lifestyle changes that will reduce symptoms, like sitting less, standing more, taking frequent breaks when driving and stretching daily
So if you’re dealing with symptoms that may suggest piriformis syndrome, find out how our New York City physical therapists can help you. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled physical therapists today, or click here for more information on piriformis syndrome.