2 Your Health: Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome – How Massage Can Help!


Heidi Overman, LMT

I have had sciatica. It’s painful and debilitating. I couldn’t walk, sit, or stand without being in pain. I was desperate for help without muscle relaxers or pain meds. It flared every few months and it was starting to affect my job, my ability to take care of my son, and my health. This was in 1998. Through massage and acupuncture, I no longer get sciatic pain.

In my practice, I hear a lot of clients complain of sciatic, hip, and lower back pain. Many clients assume it’s sciatica, however there is another condition that mimics sciatica—piriformis syndrome.

Here is how they are alike: discomfort while sitting, radiating leg pain; lower back aches, burning pain through the back of the legs or buttocks, and lower back and buttock tightness.

Piriformis syndrome refers only to when your piriformis muscle irritates or compresses your sciatic nerve. Your piriformis muscle is located in the buttocks and attaches from your sacrum to the top of your greater trochanter. Your sciatic nerve runs right through it.

The causes of piriformis syndrome include sitting in a poor chair for long periods of time; an imbalance in the hip muscles or tightness in a certain region of the hips; injury, such as a fall or a car accident; prior hip surgery; or unusually intense exercise. Some of these issues are present for a long, long time—you just aren’t aware, because the problems never caused you pain before.

Sciatica refers to a severe pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the buttocks and leg. Sciatica is generated from the spine. What commonly causes sciatica is a slipped disc that results in compression of the sciatic nerve causing pain. Other causes are: lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and more.

There is a difference between sciatica and what causes sciatic nerve pain, and this is why there is confusion as to whether you have sciatica or another issue causing sciatic nerve pain, such as piriformis syndrome, pregnancy, aging, and something else.

So, how do you know what to do when you experience these issues? First, it’s important to get a doctor’s diagnosis for sciatica. If you come see me, I will ask if you’ve been diagnosed with sciatica, so I know how to best massage you. Massage can help piriformis syndrome and sciatica. Releasing the piriformis muscle and the muscles in the lower back can help relieve pain. This can be a slow process, as it’s important to teach these muscles to release properly and it depends on what is causing these issues.

If you are interested in a therapeutic massage, call MEND for an appointment at 520-771-1514. Our website is www.mymendingplace.com. We’re located at 15920 N Oracle Rd., Ste. 170, Tucson, AZ 85739 (next to the Golden Goose).