Located in the buttocks, your piriformis is the muscle responsible for rotating the leg and stabilizing lower body movement, enabling you to walk and shift weight. Your sciatic nerve is a thick and long nerve located near the piriformis muscle that goes down the back of the leg to connect with tiny nerves in your feet. If this nerve becomes compressed, it can inflame the piriformis muscle, causing pain, tingling, and muscle spasms. This is a condition known as piriformis syndrome.
Are you experiencing pain related to piriformis syndrome? Because it is a rare condition, it is unfortunately often misdiagnosed. Check out these 7 warning symptoms of piriformis syndrome.
1. Pain & Numbness in the Buttocks
You’ll first likely experience piriformis syndrome as pain, numbing, or tingling in the buttock region. The pain can be severe, sometimes running down the entire sciatic nerve. You’ll likely feel pain across the top of your hips. Internal rotation of the hips will aggravate the nerve pain. If you are experiencing severe pain in the buttocks, particularly around the hips, that doesn’t go away, you may want to talk to your health and wellness doctor about the possibility of piriformis syndrome. Fortunately, most of the time all these symptoms are myofascial pain, and piriformis syndrome is misdiagnosed.
2. Pain in the Thighs & Calves
Though piriformis syndrome is often first experienced as pain in the buttocks, it’s not uncommon for that pain to extend down the back of the leg and into your thighs and calf region.
3. Walking Up & Down Stairs Can Be Painful
If you suffer from piriformis syndrome, stairs can be difficult. This is because walking up or down any type of incline will engage the piriformis muscle, which can compress the sciatic nerve, resulting in shooting pain down the back of your leg and buttocks. The pain can be a sharp and intense burning sensation. Fortunately, sharp and burning pain in these areas is most likely myofascial pain and not piriformis syndrome.
4. Sitting Can Be Painful
Sitting puts pressure on the piriformis muscle, which can result in muscle spasms and shooting pain. In fact, one of the common causes of piriformis syndrome is sitting too long. You may feel intense pain after sitting for a long period of time.
Unfortunately, many people’s jobs require them to sit for long periods of time, which can exacerbate this condition. We recommend that you get up periodically throughout the day, at least every hour, even if it’s just to walk around the office and stretch your legs. You might also consider getting a standing desk which allows you to alternate between standing and sitting to provide relief to buttock pain.
5. A Slow & Gradual Pain
Piriformis syndrome can present itself in a variety of ways. For some people, the pain starts slow and gradual, worsening as they sit for long periods of time. You may gradually feel the pain after walking for a little while. The pain may begin as a dull ache and then grow to become quite severe and even debilitating the longer the sciatic nerve is compressed.
6. Limited Range of Motion
The piriformis muscle is central to much of the body’s movement. During hip extension, this muscle rotates the femur laterally and is key to not only walking but maintaining balance and being able to turn your hips. If you suffer from piriformis syndrome, your movements will be highly compromised. Moving certain muscles can cause acute and pinching pain.
7. Pelvic Tenderness
The piriformis muscle goes through an area of the pelvis between the sacrum and near the top of the femur. If you suffer from piriformis syndrome, you’ll feel tenderness in this area. In fact, you may even be able to feel the exact spot where the muscle is swollen.
You can test this by pushing out your knee on something firm. If you feel pain, you may be experiencing piriformis syndrome.