Piriformis Syndrome: An Underdiagnosed Problem That Can Ruin Your Running Hobby

8 December 2015
 Categories: , Blog


If you are one of the significant number of people suffering with lower back pain, you may consider the possibility that piriformis syndrome is the primary cause. Lower back pain is an extremely common medical complaint, with an estimated 70-90 per cent of the population in distress from it at some point in their lives. Many people avoid consulting their GP about pain in this region, perhaps because they feel it would be a waste of the doctor's time to see a patient who is experiencing such a prevalent medical condition. This delay between onset of symptoms and seeking treatment can lead to recurring problems in the future, especially in the case of piriformis syndrome. If you enjoy running or walking as an exercise or hobby, it is important to learn more about this underdiagnosed condition.

  • Piriformis syndrome occurs due to compression of the sciatic nerve from the piriformis muscle, which is a small muscle located in your gluteal area. It causes a sharp electric shock-like pain in the buttocks, which runs down the back of your leg. Other symptoms include numbness and general lower back pain. 
  • This condition is easily aggravated by activities such as jogging and even fast walking. If you run for extended periods of time every week and find that your buttocks or lower back are invariably sore afterwards, it is worth considering piriformis syndrome as a possible cause. 
  • It is an underdiagnosed condition and not particularly well understood. It is hard to pinpoint exactly how prevalent piriformis syndrome is among the proportion of the population suffering with lower back pain, although the current estimate is around 17 per cent. The true figure is likely to be higher due to some patients not seeking appropriate medical care.
  • The best treatment for piriformis syndrome is a visit to a qualified chiropractor. Availing of chiropractic services to treat this condition is extremely important, because a good chiropractor will know exactly how to stretch and massage the piriformis muscle and develop a daily routine to help you with the long-term management of it. Attempting to massage or stretch the muscle yourself can result in worsening pain.
  • It is important to book an appointment with a chiropractor as soon as you suspect a case of piriformis syndrome or any other lower back condition. Delaying treatment can hamper your ability to run or walk briskly. If you participate in either of these activities as a regular hobby you owe it to yourself to get checked out quickly so you can get back to doing what you love without worrying about further damage.
  • Surgeons have long believed that the piriformis muscle is unnecessary in the human body for activities such as walking or running, but the renowned scientist Owen Lovejoy proved otherwise with his work on the skeleton of "Lucy", the 3.2 million year old fossil found in Ethiopia in 1974. As discussed here, the piriformis muscle is described as helping to ensure that the femoral neck does not curve. That is to say, the piriformis prevents frequent fractures in the hip area from intense exercises such as running.