Hip, hamstring and buttock pain – your piriformis of course
If you’ve ever experienced tingling, numbness or shooting pains down the rear of your thigh or radiating pain in your lower back or hips, you might well benefit from stretching the muscles deep in your buttocks; specifically the piriformis.
Now I hear you ask what on earth is that? Piriformis means pear shaped in Latin, and was first named by Adriaan van den Spiegel, a professor from the University of Padua in the 16th century1. This muscle is in the gluteal region of the lower limb and is one of the six muscles in the lateral rotator group.
A wide variety of prevalence studies on patients with lower back pain and sciatica show that anywhere between 5-36% suffer directly from piriformis syndrome. Women are more likely to experience piriformis syndrome than men, most probably owing to their slightly different anatomy of the pelvis2.
As a deep tissue massage therapist, I have gradually seen an increase in the number of clients presenting with symptoms typical of piriformis syndrome over the last four years. Often clients experience direct relief through the release of the muscles deep within the buttocks, using slow building compression techniques on the muscle itself and the outlying areas of the posterior hip and gluteal muscles. Passive stretching and self-stretching exercises also help clients maintain lowered levels of pain.
If you want a quick method to stretch and release a tightened piriformis muscle, follow this stretching guide (especially before and after any physical activity like running or cycling): stretching your piriformis.
To learn more about how to identify this painful condition and treat and strengthen the muscle, you should read this comprehensive guide: everything you need to know about piriformis syndrome by Runners Connect. The article details the current medical thoughts on its origins, assessment and the range of treatment options available (both received by a professional and self-care techniques).
- Smoll NR (January 2010). “Variations of the piriformis and sciatic nerve with clinical consequence: a review”. Clinical Anatomy. 23 (1): 8–17. doi:10.1002/ca.20893. PMID 1999849
- Diagnosis and Management of Piriformis Syndrome: An Osteopathic Approach, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, November 2008, Vol. 108, 657-664