Piriformis Syndrome…A Pain In The Butt!

Piriformis Syndrome might be the most glorified treatment of massage therapy that exists. You seem to hear about it being the culprit for all butt pain and if treated with massage, your days of suffering will be gone forever.  I do agree with the fact that massage therapy is an effective tool for combating sciatic pain. However, before we go anointing massage as the absolute cure for sciatica, we should know what it is, and how it comes to be such a pain in the butt…pun intended (my sense of humor is nosediving).

Figure 1. Photo Credit: Blausen.com

The first fact that we need to establish is “sciatica” and piriformis syndrome are not the same thing. Piriformis syndrome can cause “sciatica” like symptoms, but it is not what causes the medical definition of sciatica…which isn’t a thing. The actual medical term for sciatica is a lumbar radiculopathy which is itself only a symptom of any sort of nerve compression in the lumbar spine. In other words, a nerve compression in the lumbar spine causes a radiculopathy (nerve pain) when some sort of disc or spinal condition causes nerve pressure. This causes symptoms like pain, tingling, and numbness in the gluteal, posterior leg and foot. These symptoms are commonly referred to as sciatica.

Piriformis syndrome is an actual condition involving the interaction of the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve. It is defined by some as a “peripheral neuritis” which is a fancy way of saying that the piriformis muscle causes irritation to the sciatic nerve.  Per its definition, it has no relation to any sort of spinal condition and should be distinguished as so.

This is an important fact to know because it completely changes how we apply treatment to a client. Continue reading “Piriformis Syndrome…A Pain In The Butt!”

Massage Therapy for Disc Injuries

Today I would like to touch on a topic which some massage therapist might find a little surprising. I remember back in school learning about different conditions and how to treat them. Some were obvious conditions which could be affected by soft tissue manipulation, like piriformis syndrome, carpal tunnel and thoracic outlet syndrome( all the classics). We learned how to treat these early on and I have used that knowledge throughout my career to help many people. Okay, great! Then there were the ones we learned about that were basically labeled the untouchables. They were considered far and beyond our scope of practice and, if suspected, should have stayed as far away from treating those patients as possible and referred to a primary care physician for treatment. Now I’m not here to rip apart the massage therapy educational system but I would like to talk about one of these “untouchable” conditions and demonstrate how just knowing a deeper knowledge of anatomy can open up our own ability to treat more complex pathologies, which in turn can help our current and prospective clients. Continue reading “Massage Therapy for Disc Injuries”