Buttock Pain?… It’s Probably Your Piriformis Muscle!

As the long days of winter continue to drag and linger, Chicagoans are likely suffering from some form of SAD due to the short days, and cold weather.  As these days slowly begin to get longer as the winter solstice has passed, warmer days are hopefully ahead.  Chicagoans are continuing to stay active whether it be for new goals they set for themselves in 2023 (from 2022), New Year’s resolutions, or just wanting to be more active.  Whether you’re doing HIIT classes, spinning, Yoga sculpt classes, or traditional weight training, it’s important to focus on mobility, flexibility, and strength.  Different types of workouts stress your muscles and joints in positive ways as you mix-in various workouts, but can also cause injury if you are compensating due to a lack of mobility, flexibility, or strength in the hip, for example.  If an injury occurs during a workout and you begin to complain of buttock pain or pain going down the back of your leg, one may think it is sciatica.  This blog will explain the difference between sciatic issues and an injury to the piriformis muscle, and what you can do to help yourself.

Sciatica is often a compression of one’s sciatic nerve that comes from the lower back, hip, or back of one’s thigh, and causes weakness, nerve symptoms (numbness, tingling, pins & needles), and radiates pain down the back of one’s leg to at least the back of your knee or lower (can also go to the calf and/or foot).  This injury can occur from overuse and/or repetitive movement similar to a piriformis muscle injury, but piriformis muscle injuries do not cause nerve symptoms, or weakness.

Piriformis muscle pain originates in one’s buttock with the pain is more achy, dull, sore, and tight.  Most often, patients complain of an ache in the buttock.  Stretching, applying ice and/or heat with a barrier (clothing/towel), and performing mobility exercises for the hip improve the pain.  When you have an injury like this, visiting a sports chiropractor or chiropractor certified in Active Release Techniques (ART) can treat this injury faster minimizing your time trying to figure out what is wrong. A thorough consultation and examination will allow the chiropractor to determine how the injury occurred, what you can do to improve it via exercises and changing how you move to prevent future episodes from happening.

Stretching the piriformis is not difficult, but finding the accurate stretch helps.  Some people do sitting Figure 4’s, but there is 1 stretch that is more accurate than this.  It involves laying on your back with both knees bent and one leg crossed on top of the other leg in a “Figure 4” position.  Then, one must take both hands grabbing the lower leg/calf of the bent leg (with your palms of your hands facing you) and pull your leg up toward your chest/head.  You can alter the position by moving the bent leg slightly straighter, moving the bent leg away from your other leg, and/or moving the bent leg toward the other leg until you find the exact spot to stretch your piriformis causing you pain.  In these cases, you are to still pull the leg up toward your head/chest and hold.  It is important to hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds and perform for several minutes on both sides daily (for balance between the 2 sides) to allow the muscle to relax.  Moreover, activating and/or strengthening your glutes will reduce the tension on your piriformis muscle when exercising and thus, decreasing the overuse associated with this muscle if you continue to exercise.

If you have an injury like this, it is important to stretch and strengthen your glutes, but do not wait until it limits your ability to exercise or possibly get worse.   Call a sports chiropractor or  an ART chiropractor to treat your injury quickly to maximize your goals & gains in 2023 so it is no longer a pain in the butt!

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