Connections Between Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome

How to Identify Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome in Santa Monica, CA

A muscle in the vicinity of the sciatic nerve is sometimes the true source of radiating pain often assumed to be sciatica, a condition primarily affected by irritation of the sciatic nerve. If contractions or spasms of the piriformis muscle affect the sciatic nerve, it may be due to an often-overlooked condition called piriformis syndrome (PS). Board-certified spine surgeons in Beverly Hills discuss the ways sciatica and piriformis syndrome are connected.

Related Nerve Irritation

Located in the buttock area, the piriformis muscle comes into contact with the sciatic nerve as it extends from the lower back toward the legs. At one point, the sciatic nerve is sandwiched between the pelvis and the piriformis muscle. If this muscle is affected by injury, it can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause:

  • Numbness or tingling in the back of the legs
  • Pain in the foot that sometimes extends to the toes
  • Sharp or shooting pain when standing or walking

Trauma and Piriformis Syndrome

Even though PS only accounts for a small percentage of reported instances of sciatic nerve pain, the piriformis muscle may be affected by some type of trauma. Initial pain can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, or hips and radiate downward. Muscle irritation may result from:

  • A hard hit or fall
  • Excessive or intense physical activity
  • Hip replacement surgery

Treating the Actual Source of Pain

Diagnosis is often a trial and error process that includes image tests to rule out sources within the lower back before considering adjacent areas. Once it’s determined the piriformis muscle is the true source of nerve irritation, treatment usually includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Application of ice or heat
  • Injections of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic into the muscle
  • Botox injections to promote muscle relaxation

When seeking a diagnosis for radiating leg pain, remain open to the possibility of a source of pain other than a herniated disc or other problem in the lower back. PS pain is usually successfully managed through non-surgical back treatment options. In rare instances, the piriformis muscle may be cut to provide relief.

If you’re considering back surgery to alleviate your pain, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Hyun Bae and his team at The Spine Institute. We specialize in fusion and non-fusion procedures and can diagnose the cause of your pain and determine an effective solution. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to learn more.