Piriformis Syndrome: A (real) Pain in The Ass

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks back, one of the things that happens as you grow older is that you find yourself learning about parts of your body you never knew you had.

In my case, I have an ache in my piriformis muscle which is, quite literally, a pain in the ass. Turns out, I suffer from something called piriformis syndrome, which is – let’s face it – a bit less dramatic than Stockholm Syndrome, but sounds momentous nonetheless. While they can’t be sure, the doctors here think it came about because I run a fair bit.

For the most part – and per my mother’s example – I manage this pain through assorted stretches and the like.

But once in awhile, it really gets  the best of me. Like yesterday. Despite taking round-the-clock ibuprofen coupled with a stronger (prescription) anti-inflammatory, I had this piercing, stabbing pain that started below my sacrum and extended all the way down my right leg to my ankle. (As a new found expert on Piriformis Syndrome, allow me to explain that the piriformis muscle is sometimes wrapped around the sciatic nerve, such that when the muscle becomes inflamed, it literally squeezes the nerve, with ripple effects all the way down one’s leg…ah, the joys of WebMD!)

I’ve been here before. Last fall, I did several rounds of physical therapy to cure this problem. I had this really hot “physio” massaging my bum twice a week for two months which, in another day/time/galaxy, might have been considered sexy.

In the event, it was just really painful.

When things get really bad, I start popping pills. Last summer when “the syndrome” first presented itself, I spent a week in bed taking muscle relaxants while watching the Olympics. It was my very worst nightmare of the 50s housewife come true:  prescription pain killers coupled with daytime TV. The doctors were reluctant to give me the meds because, apparently, people get easily hooked (and having now popped a few myself, I can readily see why…).

But it’s not just this muscle that tells me I’m aging. It’s the “Sensodyne” tooth paste I recently bought at the pharmacy. And the osteopath I needed to see last year for the persistent pain in my shoulder.

The bottom line: We’re getting old, folks. Or at least I am.

I think about the only positive thing to come out of this whole experience is that, having never been a sporty sorta gal before, I now have a bona fide sports injury. My father would be so proud.

Great article in The New York Times recently about the effects of friendship on health.

Image: Pillz by Rbatina via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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17 Responses to Piriformis Syndrome: A (real) Pain in The Ass

  1. Joe says:

    Have you considered the possibility of an herniated disk?
    It can happen progressively, rather than be caused by a specific trauma.
    Your symptoms sound identical to mine, and the herniation was confirmed by MRI a few months ago.

  2. delialloyd says:

    no but thanks for the suggestion, Joe!

  3. judy says:

    Actually, I’ve been struggling with sciatic pain myself, though I fear mine may really be of the getting-old-suck-it-up variety. (Needs a better name!)

    I laughed at your parting thought. Last summer, I broke my wrist in a mountain bike crash. I was so relieved that I injured myself doing something cool. Made me feel like I’m not old yet! 😉

  4. Jenny says:

    My simple solution to a similar piriformis problem was a tennis ball. If you lay on top of it gravity works better than all the physical therapy and stretching I tried. Start on a soft surface like the bed and as the muscle relaxes you can move to the floor.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  5. karoline says:

    Have you thought about trying acupuncture? I get really great results when treating piriformis syndrome. You’d be surprised how quickly it can make a difference. You have my email, feel free to contact me if you’d like me to find you an acupuncturist in your area. (I’m no where near you myself, but am happy to send an email to the alumni mailing list to ask.)

  6. […] thought I’d over-dosed on Ibuprofen. I’d been having trouble – again – with Piriformis Syndrome – and lost track of how many pills I’d taken in one day. I leapt to the computer, Googled […]

  7. Hi Delia,

    I realize this post is a little old, but when I had sciatica with symptoms similar to what you described, what worked best for me were visits to a chiropractor. They did “gentle” adjustments and after a couple of months, I was pain free. Now I’m very careful how lift things and try not to tweak my back when making twisting movements.

  8. […] finance to self-development to improving your productivity. In light of my new-found enthusiasm for physical therapy, I was quite taken with this post on how to improve your hunched over PC posture. (You mean leaning […]

  9. Daigle says:

    You’re not the only one suffering from piriformis syndrome. I have it too, so I created an educational site to help others with the disorder. Here are some statistics about Piriformis Syndrome that I’ve compiled.


    Bryan Daigle

  10. […] have helped if I were ten years younger and didn’t yet know the aches and pains of that pesky piriformis muscle that’s been acting up so much […]

  11. […] life coach told me to do it, another reason that I do yoga is that physical therapist I saw for my Piriformis Syndrome told me that he thought it would help. I’d already done yoga when I saw him, but had stopped […]

  12. […] life coach told me to do it, another reason that I do yoga is that physical therapist I saw for my Piriformis Syndrome told me that he thought it would help. I’d already done yoga when I saw him, but had stopped […]

  13. Nice article. I sent this to some dentist I know that could use this on their blog..

  14. […] Muscle pain migrates to new corners of your body. Remember my piriformis syndrome? Thought I had that licked, didn’t you? Nope. It’s back. Only it has inexplicably […]

  15. John Smith says:


    I am 20 years old in great shape. I have severe pain with piriformis syndrome like you and use sensodyne as well. Don’t feel bad, feel bad for me!

    Good article. On youtube, there is this prestigious doctor whose made great strides and 85-90% successful rate of cure for PS. Like all things, it is expensive (equipment, medicine) but there needs to be more progress. Hopefully a doctor will have severe piriformis like us, and work to get it commonly resolved. Until then, it’s just a pain in the ass.

  16. Richard says:

    I played college Football then 22 year of rugby . I thought that I would have had all of the injuries my body could handle. Seven knee operations, foot operation, and my last was a shoulder. But…the most severe pain and comfort was with the L-4 and what you piriformis. Fortunately for me I have been playing racquetball with a great orthopedic doctor friend. He recommended a steroid injection to that area of the back. It was the most amazing relief I could have ever had. For those of you that have suffered with lower back problems I highly recommend one of these injections.

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