Massage for Piriformis
Syndrome Treatment

Piriformis Muscle

Pain in the butt and down the back of the leg? You might benefit from massage for piriformis syndrome. This syndrome occurs when a tight, tense piriformis muscle presses on the sciatic nerve and irritates it. The pain caused by this condition is sometimes called false sciatica.

The piriformis (in red) lies under the large gluteus maximus muscle, which is cut away in the illustration to the right.

Interesting factoid: A common cause of piriformis syndrome in men is sitting on a wallet.

This article explains more about the condition and provides some information on massage for piriformis syndrome and tennis ball therapy for piriformis syndrome. 

The Sciatic Nerve

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). 

Piriformis Syndrome Explanation:

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back through the buttocks and down the legs. The sciatic nerve runs near the piriformis muscle. In a few people, the nerve actually goes through the muscle. When the muscle tightens, it can put pressure on the nerve and cause pain.

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?

  • Find a massage therapist who knows how to release the muscle (the massage technique often involves pressing deeply into your buttock, but it needs to be done properly to be effective and to avoid making the situation worse). You will likely need more than one massage to permanently resolve the problem.
  • Learn some piriformis exercises and stretches (expert advice is best; beware of some of the videos on the Internet). Good information here.
  • Use the tennis ball massage technique described later.

Massage for Piriformis Syndrome

In this article about massage for piriformis syndrome, orthopedic massage therapist Whitney Lowe recommends starting with superficial effleurage and other general massage techniques to warm and reduce tension in the gluteal muscles, and then using static compression techniques to release myofascial trigger points in the piriformis muscle. 

The following video shows one approach to massage for piriformis syndrome:



Another option is Muscle Energy Techniques.

Tennis Ball Therapy for Piriformis Syndrome

The goal of tennis ball therapy is to release tension in the piriformis 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.

  1. Sit on the floor.
  2. Put a tennis ball under the painful buttock, close to where the piriformis muscle attaches to the upper leg. (Make sure the ball presses into the muscle and not onto bone.)
  3. Gently release the weight of your buttock into the tennis ball for 15 to 20 seconds.
  4. Move the tennis ball to another point along the muscle and again let your weight sink into the ball. Apply this pressure along the complete length of the piriformis muscle.

Note: If you find a tennis ball too hard, you can also try a squash ball, which is smaller and softer.

Read more about piriformis syndrome and how to deal with it.

Photo Credit: Grey's Anatomy Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Return to Top.

› Piriformis Syndrome Treatment

Recommended

Learn Massage Online

Learn Aromatherapy

Learn Meditation

Sign-up for my free newsletter, Just the Right Touchand receive a free aromatherapy e-book.

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Just the Right Touch.