As a nation, we are sitting for longer periods than ever before. Particularly in today's current climate, we are working from home, commuting less and moving less. This opens the door to injuries such as a piriformis syndrome.
Piriformis is a muscle deep in the buttocks which lies very close to the sciatic nerve. This nerve can become compressed leading to pain in the buttock with accompanying shooting, burning, or aching down the back of the leg. In addition, numbness in the buttock and tingling sensations down the back of the leg and into the sole of the foot is not uncommon.
There is an estimated 40 million new cases of lower back pain and sciatica each year, and piriformis syndrome tends to affect the female, middle-aged patient.
Treatment usually encompasses the use of hot/cold therapy, medication and physical therapy. Surgery is usually a last resort when conservative treatment has failed and if symptoms persist. Reaching the correct diagnosis is crucial with piriformis syndrome as there are many other injuries that can present similarly, such as disc injury, hamstring injury or joint strain.
With any injury, education is so important in empowering patients to be able to self-manage their problem. Risk factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, and lack of exercise need to be communicated and addressed if needed.
Most people become symptoms-free in 1-3 weeks after starting an exercise programme, but unfortunately relapses are very common when compliance drops. The key is to avoid prolongued sitting, and take regular breaks for exercise.