Piriformis syndrome is a condition that occurs when the piriformis muscle, a flat muscle located in the buttock area, compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve which lies below it.
This can result in inflammation which causes pain, numbness, tingling, and even weakness in your buttocks and legs. Piriformis syndrome can occur on either one or both sides of your body.
What causes piriformis syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is caused by:
Muscle spasms: muscle spasms of the piriformis muscle can cause it to put pressure on and compress the sciatic nerve, resulting in piriformis syndrome.
Muscle tightness: tightening of muscles in response to injury or other factors can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, compressing it, and resulting in piriformis syndrome.
Inflammation: inflammation resulting in swelling of the piriformis muscle can compress the sciatic nerve leading to pain.
Generally, piriformis syndrome is due to overuse or injury of your muscle, spasms, or anatomical abnormalities in your muscle or nerve. In some cases, this condition may also be caused by sitting for prolonged periods, which leads to a tightening of your muscle and compression of your sciatic nerve.
What are the symptoms of piriformis syndrome?
Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include:
Pain in your buttock area that may spread down the back of your leg
Numbness or tingling in your buttock or leg
Difficulty sitting for extended periods of time
Pain when walking up stairs or inclined
Reduced range of motion in your hip joint
Pain and discomfort during or after exercise or prolonged sitting
Muscle tightness or spasms in the buttock or hip area
If you notice any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.
Piriformis syndrome can be a painful condition to live with. It can cause pain, tenderness, and tightness in your buttock and hip area. This pain can spread down the back of your leg.
The pain felt can range from mild to severe and may be worsened by prolonged sitting, standing, walking, running, or climbing stairs.
Who is at risk of piriformis syndrome in Singapore?
Anyone can get piriformis syndrome, however, some common risk factors may include:
Prolonged sitting: this can cause muscle tightness which is a cause of piriformis syndrome.
History of muscle imbalances: muscle imbalances can cause the uneven shortening and lengthening of the piriformis muscle, thus causing piriformis syndrome.
Trauma or injury to buttocks or hips: injury or trauma can cause scar tissue to build up on the piriformis muscle causing increased pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain.
Medication conditions: individuals with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and arthritis are at an increased risk of developing piriformis syndrome.
Gender: women are more prone to piriformis syndrome than men.
How is piriformis syndrome diagnosed?
Piriformis syndrome is diagnosed using the following:
Physical examination: your orthopaedist will begin by taking a look at your medical history followed by a physical examination. You will be asked to perform certain movements or stretches to see if they cause you pain or discomfort.