Piriformis Syndrome

What is piriformis syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular condition that occurs when the piriformis muscle in the buttocks pinches the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle is a large muscle on each side of the buttocks. The sciatic nerve is a nerve which starts at the spinal cord in the low back, extends through the piriformis muscle in the buttock, and branches down the back of the leg, all the way to the foot.

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome are pain, numbness and/or tingling in the buttock. Sometimes, these symptoms can extend down the leg and into the foot.

Piriformnis syndrome is one of the causes of pain the leg. It's sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as sciatica.

Is there a cure for piriformis syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome can often be relieved with physical therapy, mild low-impact aerobic exercise such as in a warm water pool, and relaxation therapies. However, on occasion, it can become chronic. In chronic cases, chronic pain rehabilitation programs are likely the most beneficial treatment strategy.


Date of publication: April 27, 2012

Date of last modification: October 23, 2015

Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is a pain psychologist and consults to health systems on improving pain. He is the editor and founder of the Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP). The ICP is an educational and public policy think tank. In its mission is to lead the field in making pain management more empirically supported, the ICP provides academic quality information on chronic pain that is approachable to patients and their families. 

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