Is it Piriformis Pain or Sciatica?

piriformis pain imagePiriformis pain is not commonly talked about as compared to sciatica. However, the sciatica pain you have may well be the result of piriformis syndrome.

When the piriformis muscle overlaps with the sciatic nerve and irritates it, you end up getting sciatica pain. Often this is then mis-diagnosed as sciatica.

While it is important to treat the sciatica for pain relief, it is more important to first also address the piriformis muscle, rather than just the sciatic nerve.

What is piriformis syndrome and piriformis pain?

The piriformis muscle is located deep in the buttocks area and sometimes it overlaps the sciatic nerve.

When the piriformis muscle is compressed or irritated due to injury or overuse, it leads to irritating the sciatic nerve. That irritation leads to classic sciatica pain.

Active individuals and athletes are often prone to this situation, though it can happens to others also. Athletes often call this condition piriformis pain or pain resulting from injury to the piriformis muscle. 

Even doctors may not fully appreciate the difference between sciatica and piriformis related sciatica pain as a result of piriformis syndrome, and may mis-diagnose the condition as sciatica.

Importance of Correctly Diagnosing Piriformis Pain

Sciatica is often used as a catch all term for describing any kind of pain which is in the lower back, buttocks and leg area. However, it is very important that the physician or patient differentiates the pain from sciatica and piriformis pain as a result of piriformis syndrome, because the treatment is somewhat different.

Often, medical practitioners, if the patient mentions sciatica, prescribes anti-inflammatory pain killers and muscle relaxants. If that does not work fully, they will often order an MRI to determine if the sciatica is the result of a herniated disc.

The problem is that many individuals who do not have any symptoms of sciatica have some aspect of herniated disc when checked through MRI. A study showed that about 60% of individuals without any symptoms had some aspect of herniated disc condition when observed through MRI. As a result, sciatica is wrongly diagnosed, which then leads to a surgeon and unnecessary surgery.

Piriformis Pain Treatment

Initially, especially immediately after injury, the use of cold and hot packs and massage is helpful. Also, symptomatic relief of the pain with anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants are indicated. Needless to say, physically robust activities that may have led to the problem has to be stopped.

However, the best treatment for piriformis related pain is similar to sciatic pain relief. In this case, the difference is that piriformis stretches and stretches of the hamstring and hip muscles are indicated.

It is important to diagnose that the sciatica nerve pain is actually piriformis pain due to piriformis syndrome or sciatica pain due to other conditions. A correct diagnosis will result in better treatment and quicker and longer lasting sciatic pain relief.

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