Recently, we have had lots of patients with pain associated in the buttocks/gluteus region. Normally this would involve more than one muscle of the back and/or hips. The recurrent offender is the piriformis muscle, a large short hip rotator muscle which is located between the sacrum and greater trochanter. The action of the piriformis muscles is outwards rotation of the leg.
The pain from piriformis syndrome can be felt at either the sacrum, hip or buttock and occasionally refers down into the hamstring. The pain area will differ between patients but in most cases can be seen in the highlighted area in the diagram. Sensations differ from tightness to a burning sensation. At worst, patients will find it difficult to walk short distances and difficult to sit for any duration and will change positions between buttocks for temporary relief. A tight piriformis muscle can place pressure and tension on the sacroiliac joint causing pain or rotation of the hips. This rotation can be so strong as to manifest in short leg syndrome which can be visible.
At the Natural Health Practice, the team and I offer different methods to assist piriformis syndrome from Acupuncture, moxibustion, electro-acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments and massage. These methods have a very high success rate as a stand alone or in combination. Your health practitioner will also show you some stretches that will assist the condition.
Stretching the piriformis muscle is almost always necessary to relieve the pain along the sciatic nerve and can be done in several different positions. A number of stretching exercises for the piriformis muscle, hamstring muscles and hip extensor muscles may be used to help decrease the painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve and return the patient’s range of motion. Several of the stretching exercises commonly prescribed to treat sciatica symptoms from piriformis muscle problems include:
- Lie on the floor with the legs flat. Raise the affected leg and place that foot on the floor outside the opposite knee. Pull the knee of the bent leg directly across the midline of the body using the opposite hand or a towel, if needed, until the stretch is felt. Do not force the knee beyond the stretch or to the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly return to starting position. Aim to complete a set of three stretches.
Practical point: Stretching the piriformis muscle a few times a day, especially when combined with hamstring stretches, will prevent tightening of the lower back and relieve tension from hip to foot. Lie on the floor with the affected leg crossed over the other leg at the knees and both legs bent. Gently pull the lower knee up towards the shoulder on the same side of the body until the stretch is felt. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly return to starting position. Aim to complete a set of three stretches
Buttocks stretch for the piriformis muscle: AKA Pigeon Pose: Begin on all fours. Place the affected foot across and underneath the trunk of the body so that the affected knee is outside the trunk. Extend the non-affected leg straight back behind the trunk and keep the pelvis straight. Keeping the affected leg in place, scoot the hips backwards towards the floor and lean forward on the forearms until a deep stretch is felt. Do not force the body to the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly return to starting position. Aim to complete a set of three stretches.
The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.
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Rodd Sanchez Sydney acupuncture and Chinese medicine