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Piriformis Syndrome and Sciatica

Many people are unclear about the difference between piriformis syndrome and sciatica.  How do you know which you have?

First, it’s important to understand that “sciatica” is not actually a diagnosis of a condition- it is a term that describes the pain.   Sciatica is pain that is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve.   It is most often felt in the low back, and radiating down the back of the leg.

“Radiculopathy” is the term for when the nerve is affected by spinal issues such as disc degeneration, a herniated disc, or a bone spur that compresses the nerve.  So, radiculopathy is the condition that causes sciatic pain.

“Piriformis Syndrome” is a condition in which the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated by a tight piriformis muscle.   Piriformis syndrome is generally very responsive to treatment such as massage therapy or myofascial release.  In many cases, even a single session can greatly relieve pain from piriformis syndrome.

In contrast, sciatica caused by a bone spur or disc degeneration is a more complex issue generally requiring long term treatment.  Always check with your doctor or primary health care provider about what treatment options are best for your condition.

The diagram below shows the piriformis muscle’s location.  Tightness or spasming of this muscle can be caused by activities such as running, driving, or long hours sitting at a desk.

pririformis muscle

Hip stretches such as “pigeon pose” can help relieve a tight piriformis muscle.   You can help prevent piriformis syndrome by performing adequate stretching before and after activities such as running, and by taking breaks to stretch throughout a long work day.

15-05-15 | 0 comments | in Uncategorized

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