Pain in your butt and down the back of the leg? You might benefit from massage for piriformis syndrome. This syndrome occurs when a tight piriformis muscle presses on the sciatic nerve and irritates it. This pain is sometimes called false sciatica.
The piriformis (in red) lies under the large gluteus maximus muscle, which is cut away in the illustration.
This article explains more about the condition and provides some
information on massage for piriformis syndrome and tennis ball therapy
for piriformis syndrome.
Interesting fact: A common cause of piriformis syndrome in men is sitting on a wallet.
True sciatica is caused by injury to or compression of the sciatic nerve in the lower back due to factors such as degenerative disc disease, slipped disc, pelvic injury, spinal stenosis, or tumors.
In contrast, the cause of piriformis syndrome is a tight muscle pressing on the sciatic nerve. The piriformis is one of the small muscles deep in the buttocks. It helps rotate the leg outwards. One end of the muscle attaches to the sacrum, and the other end attaches to the head of the femur (thigh bone).
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and goes from the low back through the buttocks (near the piriformis muscle) and down the legs. In a few people, the nerve goes through the muscle, which press on the nerve and cause pain.
Piriformis Syndrome Explanation:
Piriformis syndrome is easier to treat than true sciatica. You just have to release the tension in the piriformis muscle! (OK, I know that's not always easy.) What can you do?
One approach is to start with superficial effleurage (gliding techniques in Swedish massage) and other general massage techniques to warm and reduce tension in the gluteal muscles, and then use static compression techniques to release myofascial trigger points in the piriformis muscle.
The following video shows one way to use massage for piriformis syndrome:
The goal of tennis ball therapy is to release tension in the muscle by applying some pressure. It's sort of a substitute for real massage for piriformis syndrome.
Caution: Do this technique gently; otherwise, it may make the pain worse. To avoid damaging the muscle or nerve, stop immediately if you feel sharp pain.
Note: If you find a tennis ball too hard, you can also try a squash ball, which is smaller and softer, or a massage ball.