How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

If you have pain in your buttocks area when you run, there is a good chance that you are suffering from piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis, a muscle that is located deep in the buttocks, is irritated. Because of its location, the piriformis can be a difficult muscle to treat. Here are some tips about how to treat piriformis syndrome.

Causes of Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome often happens when runners run on slanted surfaces (such as very curved roads or beaches) too often. It can also occur by including too much down hill running in training. I have also found that tight hip flexors and hamstrings can cause piriformis soreness because, when these muscles are tight, a runner’s stride is altered, which puts stress on the piriformis muscle.

How to Treat and Cure Piriformis Syndrome

  • Rest: When you feel pain in your buttocks area, try to take a few days off to give your piriformis a chance to heal. If you run while feeling pain, you are only doing more damage to your piriformis muscle.

  • Ice: Icing the piriformis muscle is difficult due to its location, but the best way is probably to buy or make a bag of crushed ice sit on the ice for 10 minutes, take the bag off for 10 minutes, and place the bag back on the area for 10 minutes. Try to do this at least 2-3 times per day.

  • NSAIDs: “NSAID” stands for Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug. NSAIDs include Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs do a great job at reducing inflammation in the body and promoting healing of the piriformis. While these drugs may help you if you are hurt, please be careful not to abuse the drugs. Only take them for about a 2 week period because extended use can really do bad things to your kidneys. I have heard some horror stories about runners who used NSAIDs for months on end who are now suffering from serious kidney issues. Therefore, make sure to use NSAIDs if you are dealing with piriformis syndrome, but please don’t overuse them.

  • LIGHT stretching: As your piriformis syndrome paid starts to ease up, try to mix in some light stretching. One good way to stretch the piriformis is, while laying on your back put a tennis ball under your the area and gentle roll the affected muscle over the ball. Try to find a knot in the muscle and let the ball sink into the knot. Please realize that this can be quite painful, but it is often necessary to smooth out the tight muscle. Think of it has a cheap deep massage. Also make sure to adequately stretch your hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps muscles because, as a I stated before, if those muscles are tight, they can cause piriformis syndrome.

  • See a professional: If the above piriformis syndrome treatment methods don’t work, go see a professional sports medicine physician or a physical therapist as soon as possible. A massage therapist may also help you get some relief. Sometimes massage therapist can work wonders in breaking up knots and scar tissue in the piriformis muscle, which gives the muscle a chance to heal.

  • Track your running: Although a running log will not cure pirifromis syndrome, it can help you discover why you developed piriformis syndrome. By tracking your workouts, you will be able to find errors in your training (i.e. not taking enough rest) that cause injuries to happen. Without the help of a running log, it is highly likely that you will continually repeat past training errors and suffer future bouts of piriformis syndrome.

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