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Low Back Pain & Sciatica - The Piriformis Muscle Can be the Cause

Jul 5, 2008
Low back Pain & Sciatica can be very painful conditions, where pain is felt either in the low back & / or passing down the leg from either the low back or buttock region. There are several reasons as to why you may suffer with Low Back Pain or Sciatica, but a tight Piriformis muscle is a relatively common cause.

The Piriformis muscle is situated deep within the buttock region, where it attached to the outside of your hip and also the outer part of your sacrum. As it travels between these two points, the Sciatic Nerve either passes through this muscle itself, or directly underneath (it varies from person to person).

With the Sciatic nerve passing in such close proximity to the Piriformis muscle, it should come as no surprise that, if this muscle is tight, it will place increased stress upon the Sciatic Nerve, resulting in pain. As far as Low Back Pain is concerned, the reasons for pain are completely differrent. With the Piriformis muscle attatching to the Sacrum, if this muscle is tight, it will be continuously 'pulling' upon this bone.

The Sacrum forms half of the Sacro-Iliac joint (Sacro referring to the Sacrum and Iliac referring to a specific part of the pelvis) and if the sacrum is being pulled on too much, there will be increased stresses placed across the Sacro-Iliac joint, which itself can ultimately lead to pain.

If you find that your Low Back Pain begins not in the lower back itself, but rather a little further down (but above the buttock region), there is a reasonable chance it is Sacro-Iliac pain your are suffering with. Some people often say to me it feels as if the pain is coming from an area below their back where there are a 'couple of dimples'. This is in the area of the Sacro-Iliac joint and if you feel the same, it maybe this joint which is the source of your pain.

Moving on to Sciatica, if the 'highest' part of your pain is in the 'buttock' region, it is highly probable that a tight Piriformis muscle is responsible for your pain. You will need to stretch this muscle if this is the case.

It would be too difficult, and probably confusing, to try and describe a Piriformis stretch without the use of a diagram. Therefore, I have placed a link below which will show you how to stretch a tight Piriformis muscle.

Massage is an excellent way of loosening up this muscle, and by using a small ball (maybe a tennis ball or something similar) this is something you can try yourself:

Lie yourself on your back with your knees bent. Place the ball approximately in the middle of buttock on the side which needs to be massaged (this is approximately where the Piriformis muscle is). From there, gently 'roll' the ball by moving / rotating your buttock, so that the ball gently massages the area underneath.

This self massage exercise can be an excellent way of loosening up the Piriformis Muscle. However be careful, as it may also aggravate your Sciatica if the pain is still quite sensitive. This is because not only will you be massaging the Piriformis muscle, but also the Sciatic Nerve as it passes through or underneath it. Consequently, it may stir your pain up a little.

If you do happen to make your pain a little worse with this exercise, do not concern yourself too much. OK, so we would rather not have aggravated things, however, this increase in pain is simply your body's way of telling you that you need to slow down. This is because it is not strong enough for that particular exercise yet. Take heed of this warning and stop performing that exercise until the pain quietens back down. Once it has, gently re-introduce the same exercise, only this time try not to be quite as firm!

Exercises such as stretching and massage are an excellent way of loosening up a tight Piriformis muscle. Consequently, if it is tightness in this muscle which is responsible for your pain, your pain should soon begin to resolve itself.
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