Piriformis syndrome for runners

One of the common injuries among runners is piriformis syndrome. It is often confused with sciatic pain because the piriformis is right next to the sciatic nerve. The symptom of a tight piriformis muscle is either tingling, numbness or sharp pain in the butt area. The piriformis muscle is a small stabilizing muscle located deep behind the gluteus maximus. It is connected from the lower spine to the upper thigh bone. The piriformis supports the external rotation of the hips, stabilizes the pelvis and keeps the hips level while running, this muscle plays a critical role in the running motion.

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome:

When the piriformis gets too tight, irritated, swollen or inflamed from overuse, often the sciatic nerve gets affected. The pain can stay localized to the glutes or radiate down the leg or up into the lower back. Piriformis syndrome can be tricky to diagnose, it can easily be confused for sciatica issues, hamstring strain, or a lower back issue.

Key symptoms of piriformis syndrome:

Sitting hurts: Runners dealing with piriformis syndrome don’t always feel the most pain while running, but mostly when sitting, climbing or squatting.

Area feels tender: Piriformis syndrome causes the buttocks area to feel tender. Sometimes putting pressure on the area causes pain not only at the trigger point, but all the way down the leg.

Pain in the middle of the glutes: That mid-section of the buttocks is usually where we feel the piriformis pain.

Causes of piriformis syndrome:

“Sleepy glute syndrome” is one of the main contributor of the piriformis syndrome- weak glutes. Excessive sitting at a desk, or driving can deactivate the glutes and hamstrings. When running with weak or deactivated glutes and hamstrings, these muscles are not able to sync with each other, so they are not able to sustain the repetitive strain of distance running. Even a bad sitting posture can cause misalignment of the pelvis, which requires the piriformis to work extra hard, tighten or go into spasm.

How to treat piriformis syndrome:

Rest: Make sure you rest or reduce your running mileage.
Stretch: Stretching the piriformis after every run should be part of your regular stretching routine.
Use a tennis ball: Foam rolling doesn’t get deep enough to release the deep piriformis muscle, so sit on a tennis ball and roll to get into that deep muscle.
Focus on your pelvis alignment: While running make sure your pelvis and hips are aligned, sit with good posture, and don’t sit for extended periods.

How to avoid piriformis syndrome:

Don’t over-train: Don’t increase your running distance too quickly, but gradually. Always include a rest day in your training schedule.

Activate your glute muscles: A proper pre-run dynamic warm-up requires exercises to activate the glutes; lunges, squats, bridge. Include weekly buttock strengthening exercises in your training routine.

Don’t skip the post-run stretching routine: Always include all the basic runners’ stretches after every run. Also, get regular sport massage to avoid any injury.

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