“What is causing the pain down my leg?”
Personal note: A client comes in with a tingling sensation down one of their legs. Standing and sitting cause low back/glut pain and it’s not easy getting out of the car. During the session, I press in on a glut muscle that attaches from the bottom of the sacrum to the hip joint. This causes a tingling sensation down the client’s leg. “That’s it! That’s the same pain!”
So what is this muscle?
The Piriformis is a muscle that controls outward motion of the thigh/ leg.
Personal Note: If you stand like a duck, with your feet and knees pointing out to the sides, that’s a motion the piriformis controls.
The primary purpose of the piriformis is to allow twisting motions of the hips to manipulate the thighs.
“What happens when the piriformis gets tight?”
An interesting fact about the piriformis is that the sciatic nerve runs either under the muscle or through it. If the mucle becomes tight, the sciatic nerve will be pressed upon, causing nerve pain. Sciatica is the most common name for this symptom. However, Piriformis Syndrome could also be a cause of the pain. Either way, it’s good to find a way to loosen the piriformis.
Check out this article on Piriformis Syndrome by Spine Health:
Any number of symptoms could show up because of a tight piriformis:
- Nerve pain down the leg
- Spasms in the Gluts/ Thighs/ Low Back
- Hip and Low Back pain
- Trouble walking/ standing/ or sitting
- Range of motion is limited in effected leg
- Your feet, instead of pointing forward, will point outwards, like a duck walk.
“What causes the muscle to be tight?”
- Sports that require turning a lot will force the body to adapt to the motion, and tighten the piriformis. Soccer, Lacrosse, and Tennis are among the sports that cause this.
- Excessive sitting causes the muscle to tighten, in order to try and protect the gluts and nerves from the constant compression.
- An accidental low back twist with weight or a fall can cause the piriformis to activate and remain tense as a defense for the body.
“What can I do?”
- Go see your doctor if symptoms become agonizing or persist for more than a few days. If it’s simply the piriformis being tight, then there are a couple of things that can help that I will include in this list. However, if the pain is terrible, then it’s better to be safe and get checked out. If an injury has occurred, it could be more than just the piriformis that’s been aggravated.
- If the pain is more annoying than agonizing, see your local chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist. They might be able to lessen the pain with connective tissue work or an adjustment.
- Try these stretches. Personal note: I like to give these stretches to clients with tight gluts/ hips. Clients usually find these stretches helpful.
Personal Note: Please don’t try to work the piriformis yourself (especially with a foam roller) unless you’ve been instructed properly. You could accidentally hurt your sciatic nerve and make the symptoms worse.