Exercises for Piriformis Syndrome

Should You Do Them and What to Do

What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis Syndrome is a condition that is similar to sciatica in its symptoms. There is often pain in the buttocks and pain that goes down the back of the leg.

The difference between sciatica and Piriformis syndrome is that in Piriformis Syndrome, the Piriformis muscle is the culprit causing the pain. When this muscle is tight, it will compress the sciatic nerve, causing the symptoms. The Piriformis muscle is a deep muscle of the hip that connects the pelvis to the hip. Its function is to externally rotate the hip, along with other hip rotators such as the Gluteus maximus and medius muscles.

Should You Exercise When You Have Back Pain?

When you have sciatica pain, Piriformis Syndrome, or any type of back pain, it’s understandable that you don’t want to move much since movement causes pain.

However, several research studies have found that staying in bed or becoming a couch potato is a sure way to extend your convalescent time. They report that those who only give themselves one day to rest and then begin moving again and even exercising are much better off in the long run.

This is a paradigm shift for many of us! We are used to thinking that if we’re sick, it’s best to stay in bed.

This “up and at ‘em” attitude does remind us that movement is life and life is movement! If we want life and to be free of sciatic nerve pain, we must move. If we want to be free from piriformis syndrome, we will have to move and exercise.

Exercises for Piriformis Syndrome

1.  General Movement/Activity

Again, the main key is to get moving again, even though you have pain. Any low impact type of activity is helpful for those with sciatic nerve pain. Swimming and brisk walking are two of the best ways to begin exercising.

2. Back School is Extremely Beneficial

Without Mom around to teach you how to put a book on your head and walk around the room, someone had to take over the reigns of teaching proper posture. Many health practitioners can help in this regard, especially Chiropractors, Physical therapists, and Feldenkrais Practitioners.

But there’s also the possibility of going to back school. Don’t worry; there aren’t going to be any tests in class; the only test is a take home test where your results are directly related to what happens with your back pain.

More and more back schools can be found now, especially in hospitals. What these back schools do is teach people:

• How to deal with chronic pain

• How to improve posture while sitting, standing, lifting, driving and bending over

• How to recognize signs that back pain is worsening and needs medical attention

• How to maintain a healthy back with exercise

In a 2003 study on back schools, research studies were reviewed to see if scientists could make a decision on whether or not the back schools were doing any good. They looked at several studies that involved a total of 3584 patients with low back pain who had gone through the training. The scientists found that people returned to work much more quickly than those who didn’t have the education.

The only drawback in the study was that the scientists didn’t report on the breakdown of those who had low back pain due to disc herniation, sciatic nerve compression, sciatic nerve pain, or other causes.

What the scientists found makes total sense. Whenever you can immerse yourself in training of any kind, you will often come out ahead. Structured training always sets a foundation of principles that can be built upon and allows a person to successfully apply the principles to their life. Learning on one’s own usually ends up as a mishmash of learned concepts without a structure.

3. Specific Poses (Exercises) for Piriformis Syndrome

Yoga exercises can effectively control the pain of piriformis syndrome and sciatica. It is also helpful for those with stenosis and those recovering from back surgery, according to a study that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 20, 2005 by KJ Sherman and colleagues.

Stretching your gluteal muscles is a great way to help piriformis syndrome. Trying laying on your back, with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Put your right foot across the left knee, just as you would if you crossed your leg while sitting. Then, use your hands to lieft your left knee toward your chest. You should feel a deep stretch in your right gluteal muscle. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. Do this three times for each side.  You can also stetch your hamstrings as this sometimes contributes to piriformis syndrome.

You can also follow a protocol of Exercises for Sciatica to help overcome Piriformis Syndrome pain. The goal of these exercises is to decrease the spasms of the Piriformis muscle. Once this happens, you will have a reduction in the pain.