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What Is the Best Piriformis Syndrome Treatment?

Gentle yoga might be used to improve posture in those with piriformis syndrome.
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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2014
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Exercises and stretches specifically designed to relieve piriformis syndrome are typically the most effective treatments for this painful condition. Strengthening muscles, increasing flexibility and improving posture are common goals of a piriformis syndrome treatment plan. Once an individual has been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome by a qualified medical professional, the patient will often be sent to physical therapy or physiotherapy for treatment. The physical therapist will recommend and demonstrate exercises and stretches known to encourage the rehabilitation process.

Piriformis is a form of sciatica that develops when there is pressure on the sciatic nerve that causes the piriformis muscle in the buttocks to spasm. The pain starts in the buttocks and continues down through the thigh. Falling down, sitting for long periods of time and injuries from car accidents are common causes of piriformis syndrome.

A buttocks stretch is commonly recommended to patients as a piriformis syndrome treatment. The patient sits on the floor with one leg stretched out straight and the injured leg crossed over the opposite thigh so that the foot of the injured leg touches the knee. The buttocks are stretched when the patient takes hold of the knee of the injured leg and gently pulls it across the body.

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Patients suffering from piriformis syndrome may also benefit from a simple thigh cross exercise. To perform this stretch, the patient lays down on the floor with his or her legs straight. The injured leg is lifted up and then slowly lowered across the opposite hip. This and similar stretches can be an effective piriformis syndrome treatment.

An important goal for piriformis syndrome treatment is improving the patient’s posture. Poor posture can cause the piriformis muscle to contract and shorten and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. The physical therapist may recommend exercises to strengthen the shoulder and upper back muscles or gentle yoga to help improve posture.

Improving flexibility can also help relieve the pain of piriformis syndrome. Low impact yoga can significantly improve flexibility, for example. A physical therapist can evaluate which muscles of a particular patient are most contracted and recommend stretches that target the tight areas. Muscles should be warmed up prior to stretching and stretches can be progressively deepened over time.

Piriformis syndrome is often diagnosed only when other similar conditions have been ruled out. Common medicinal piriformis syndrome treatment often includes anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or corticosteroid injections, but medications will only soothe pain and not cure the condition. A typical self-care option is alternating hot and cold compresses where muscles are tight and painful. People with piriformis syndrome can aggravate their condition by not adhering to their treatment regimens or engaging in behaviors that caused the onset of the disorder.

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