Are sciatica and piriformis syndrome the same thing?
No, piriformis syndrome is a particular type of sciatica.
Have I Got Sciatica?
The cause, character, location and how long the pain has been there help to identify if you have sciatica and piriformis syndrome.
Your doctor will carry out a specific examination and might also want an MRI. Although not common, an MRI Can be very important in some case.
Piriformis syndrome can give sciatic symptoms in some people. Piriformis syndrome can occur in 20% of people whose sciatic nerve threads it’s way thought (not around) the piriformis muscle.
Piriformis syndrome typically gives back pain and leg pain like true sciatica.
However, unlike true sciatica the cause of back pain and leg pain is due to entrapment of the sciatic nerve within the piriformis muscle.
For these 20% of people when their piriformis muscle contracts it compress the sciatic nerve. For these sufferers they’ve got sciatica secondary to a pelvic problem.
As well as piriformis syndrome there are various other causes of sciatica.
Are Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome Always Painful?
No not always.
Many causes of sciatica aren’t pain but still cause numbness, pins and needles or muscle weakness due to the trapped never.
Conversely piriformis syndrome is usually painful. The spasmed piriformis muscle gets achy and sore, as well as causing the trapped nerve type symptoms.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve is compressed. The never itself is formed up of lots of nerve roots coming from the spine. The sciatic nerve itself can be as much as about 1cm thick in adults. When it’s trapped you can get a range of symptoms including pain, pins and needles, or even muscle weakness.
The symptoms follow the course of your sciatic nerve. The pain is usually in the lower leg (especially the outside of your calf), or your foot.
In some cases, you can get low back pain as well. Generally, in the center of your low back, along the belt line.
The sciatic nerve or it’s nerve roots as they exit the low back can be compressed by various problems. Injury or trauma can damage the nerve as well as functional issues which can result in sciatic symptoms.
Can Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome be Treated?
Yes, depending on the type of sciatica, it’s cause, severity and what associated complication there are.
If you’re suffering then consider seeing a chiropractor, physiotherapist or an osteopath.
They’ll work out what’s causing the sciatica (diagnosis) and work out a treatment plan to help.
What Causes Piriformis Syndrome?
This is when the piriformis muscle goes into spasm and compresses the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle might go into sustained spas for a variety of reasons. However, over training, specific injury (trauma) or lack of stretching are common causes.
Treatment for Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome
Treatment can include massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation techniques to help relive the pain. There are also techniques you can use yourself to ease the pain. As well as working on pain relieving treatments and techniques it’s also important to focus on the functional cause.
Consider looking for a clinic with a multidisciplinary team such as one. A multidisciplinary approach can be useful by including a variety of techniques.
Firstly, get a clear diagnosis as to the cause of the sciatica. Depending on what’s causing your sciatica will affect what kind of hands-on treatment you need. However, if you’re just relying on pain medication to ease your symptoms then the same medication can be used for a range of causes.
Once you’ve fully recovered remember to keep looking after yourself. Prevention is better than cure.