Piriformis syndrome is a sports injury that may result in lower back pain. Here are four things that runners need to know about this injury.
What causes piriformis syndrome?
Your piriformis muscle is one of the muscles in your gluteal region. It plays a very important role in activities like walking or running as it helps you to balance your body weight and avoid falling when your weight is only on one leg. This muscle is in close proximity to your sciatic nerve, a major nerve that runs from your lower back down your legs.
Generally, piriformis syndrome occurs due to inflammation in your piriformis muscle. This inflammation can then have an effect on your sciatic nerve and lead to pain in your lower back or surrounding areas. This inflammation may occur as a result of training too hard, not giving your muscles time to heal between workouts, or even blunt trauma, such as falling and landing on the piriformis muscle.
What are the signs of piriformis syndrome?
If you have piriformis syndrome, you will feel pain in your lower back if you sit, stand, or lie down for longer than 20 minutes. Shifting positions will relieve the pain, but not completely. This pain tends to radiate from your lower back to your legs.
You may also feel numbness or weakness in your lower back or in your legs. This can make it hard for you to walk or do other daily activities.
How is it treated?
If you have piriformis syndrome, your doctor will send you to a physiotherapist for treatment. During these appointments, your physiotherapist will lead you through helpful stretches and massage the affected muscle. Your physiotherapist may also teach you stretches and massages that you can do at home in between your appointments.
Your physiotherapist may also recommend making changes to the way you sit or sleep. People with this injury tend to rotate the injured leg outwards while they're sitting or sleeping, which can make the discomfort worse, so you may need to make a conscious effort to rotate it inwards.
Unlike other sports injuries, you may be allowed to keep running while you recover. However, you may be told to make changes to the way you run; for example, running with a shorter stride helps to reduce the strain on the piriformis muscle
Is it common?
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reports that between 5% and 36% of people with lower back pain have piriformis syndrome.
If you're a runner and your lower back is sore, you may have piriformis syndrome and should see a professional like Dr. Lisa M. Schoene for evaluation.