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Have you ever had a nagging pain on your rear end?

You are not alone…piriformis syndrome is a common complaint amongst sufferers that seek out massage therapy care. The pain is typically deep in the hip and buttocks area but can be anywhere from the lower back to the thigh. Stiffness, weakness and movement restriction are often reported as well as tingling and numbness in the legs. So what causes this pain in your butt?

The most common causes are sitting for long periods of time with your hips flexed, which is typical for individuals that spend most of the day working at a desk. Piriformis Syndrome is also common in athletes. It is most often an overuse injury found in cyclists, rowers and runners. Runners experience piriformis syndrome oftentimes with overpronation of the foot. When a foot overpronates it causes the knee to turn medially, causing the piriformis to activate to prevent over-rotating the knee. This causes the piriformis to become overused and therefore tight, eventually leading to piriformis syndrome. Other causes for piriformis syndrome include stiffness, or hypomobility of the sacroiliac joints, which can actually change the way that you walk and cause some lower back pain as well.

Where is the piriformis muscle?

The piriformis is a muscle that travels behind the hip joint. The piriformis muscle is small compared to other muscles around the hip and thigh, and it aids in external rotation (turning out) of the hip joint. The piriformis muscle and its tendon have a close relationship to the sciatic nerve–the largest nerve in the body–which supplies the lower extremities with motor and sensory function. The piriformis tendon and sciatic nerve cross each other behind the hip joint, in the deep buttock.

What are preventative measures and treatments for Piriformis Syndrome?

If your work requires to sit for extended periods of time throughout the day or if you are an avid athlete that is susceptible to this injury there are several preventative measures you can take to lower your risk of developing piriformis syndrome. An exercise regimen targeting the gluteus medius and hip abductor muscle groups can alleviate symptoms of piriformis syndrome within days. Stretching exercises will target the piriformis, but may also include the hamstrings and hip muscles, in order to adequately reduce pain and increase range of motion. Patients with piriformis syndrome may also find relief from ice and heat. Ice can be helpful when the pain starts, or immediately after an activity that causes pain. This may be simply an ice pack, or ice massage. Deep tissue massage into the hip releases the piriformis muscle to relieve symptoms that mimic sciatic like pain.

Some examples of stretching exercises that Hands on Health Asheville Massage Therapy Center recommends to target the piriformis muscle:

Sit with one leg straight out in front. Hold onto the ankle of your other leg and pull it directly towards your chest.

Lie face down and bend one leg under your stomach, then lean towards the ground.

Photo credit: http://www.thestretchinghandbook.com/archives/piriformis-syndrome.php