Piriformis Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Piriformis Syndrome Symptom

Buttock Pain

Causes of pain in the buttocks range from temporary annoyances, such as bursitis, bruising, piriformis syndrome, muscle strain, and shingles, to more serious diseases with long-term consequences, such as cancer, arthritis of the sacroiliac joints, and herniated disc with sciatica. All symptoms related to buttock pain must be evaluated in terms of their intensity, duration, location, and aggravating or relieving factors. For examples, whether or not the pain changes when walking, when sitting, or when at rest while lying down.

Piriformis syndrome facts

  • Piriformis syndrome is an uncommon cause of pain and other symptoms in the buttocks and/or lower back that can radiate down the leg to the foot.
  • Piriformis syndrome is usually due to compression or contraction of the piriformis muscle on certain areas of the sciatic nerve; the most common risk factors are overuse or trauma from sports, but other conditions can cause the symptoms.
  • The signs and symptoms of piriformis syndrome may include
    • pain,
    • tingling,
    • numbness,
    • pain that can go from the back to the foot,
    • intermittent pain,
    • severe pain when attempting certain movements (for example climbing stairs, walking, running).
  • Diagnosis is primarily based upon the patient's history and physical exam; other more common, similar problems are diagnosed or ruled out by CT, MRI, electromyography, and injection tests.
  • Treatment of piriformis syndrome depends upon the chronicity of the disease and may include physical therapy, exercise, stretching, and medical treatments such as injection therapy, NSAIDs, opiates, and infrequently surgery.
  • Doctors and other health professionals who may treat piriformis syndrome include orthopedists, osteopathic physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, sports medicine doctors, and less frequently, surgeons and/or OB/GYN doctors.
  • There are several types of home remedies (exercises, cold packs, stretching, for example) that can be used to help reduce the symptoms of piriformis syndrome and help muscles to heal.
  • Treatment of acute piriformis syndrome usually has a good prognosis; the prognosis declines as the disease becomes chronic.
  • It is possible to prevent piriformis syndrome with appropriate use of the musculature and avoiding trauma to the low back/buttock area; recurrences may be prevented by following an individually designed rehabilitation program.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/10/2015

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