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What is piriformis muscle syndrome?

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Quick Answer

Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle becomes irritated. The resulting pain could be from muscle spasms or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The syndrome is similar to sciatica, which also causes pain, numbness and tingling that radiates down the back of the leg. Typically symptoms worsen after prolonged sitting, walking or running and are alleviated by lying on the back, according to Spine-Health.

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Full Answer

The piriformis muscle is located in the buttocks at the top of the hip joint. It plays a key role in stabilizing the hip joint and helping to rotate and lift the thigh away from the body, enabling humans to walk and maintain balance. There is no diagnostic test for piriformis syndrome, although a history of long-distance running or prolonged sitting has been associated with it. X-rays or MRI tests may be useful to rule out other causes of pain, such as nerve compression from a herniated disk, according to WebMD.

Conservative treatments include rest, icing the affected area and heat. A physical therapist can prescribe stretching exercises to relieve sciatic nerve compression. Other options include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants or injections with corticosteroids, anesthetics or Botox to relieve muscle tightness. Surgery is considered a last resort.

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