Piriformis Syndrome: The Hips Have It

Hip painWithout our hips, we would have one less place to rest our hands to show our impatience, one less way to carry a child, and one less verse of the hokey pokey.  Imagine not being able to put your hip in and out and shake it all about! The truth is, our hips are a major contributor to just about every move we make, so it’s no wonder that they encounter a whole lot of wear and tear. Repetitive motions like running, cycling, squatting to pick up a child, and dancing can certainly take its toll over time, causing chronic pain and limited movement. Piriformis syndrome is a condition that can result from this constant stress.

A Piriformis Problem

The piriformis is a band-like muscle in the buttocks that runs from the base of the spine to the femur. It stabilizes the hip and helps to lift and rotate the thigh away from the body. The sciatic nerve is a thick and long nerve that passes through or alongside the piriformis, goes down the leg, and branches off into the foot. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the muscle becomes inflamed and compresses, or squeezes, the nerve. This can be the result of sitting in the car for long periods of time, or partaking in activities with repetitive motions like running and soccer. It can also be triggered by pressure in the area or climbing stairs. Depending on your body, you may unfortunately be simply predisposed to having this problem.

Get Hip to the Signs of the Syndrome

This neuromuscular disorder causes hip pain, numbness and tingling in the buttocks, and in severe cases, a radiating pain down the leg. An MRI can confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes such as a herniated disc.

A Heaping Helping of RICE

Rice stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest means avoiding activities and positions that trigger the pain. Ice will help reduce discomfort and inflammation, and compression along with elevation will help to keep swelling at a minimum. We may also recommend anti-inflammatory medication. Muscle relaxants and injections of corticosteroids are sometimes recommended as well.

Once inflammation subsides, a visit to Cherry Creek Physical Therapy or Castle Pines Physical Therapy will allow you to learn stretching exercises that will not only help alleviate pain, but also increase blood flow, ultimately reducing symptoms. Certain yoga positions—like pigeon, Cobbler’s pose, bridge, and wide leg forward bends—can also prove to be helpful. A gradual return to activity is recommended, but only with proper warm up and posture, as well as an awareness of symptoms so that you know when to stop before pain intensifies and the cycle of injury returns.

If you are experiencing hip pain and think you may be suffering from piriformis syndrome, we can help! Call (303) 805-5156 to make an appointment with Dr. Jennifer Molner at Cherry Creek Physical Therapy and Castle Pines Physical Therapy. We can assist in easing your pain and provide the education you need to continue feeling good at home. Visit us in Cherry Creek and Castle Pines, CO, and you’ll be “Hip-hip-hooray!” in no time!