Piriformis Syndrome in Crossfit

Piriformis syndrome is a common cause of sciatica. It presents similarly to sciatica from a disc herniation, however, the mechanism is different. Piriformis syndrome is an overload condition, meaning that repetitive heavy loading is a key driver to developing piriformis syndrome. 

Cause of Piriformis Syndrome

The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located under the gluteal muscles. The reason it is important is due to its close proximity to the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle typically lies directly on top of the sciatic nerve, but in some people the sciatic nerve actually goes through the piriformis muscle. When the piriformis muscle goes into spasm, it can cause compression on the sciatic nerve leading to pain and numbness.

This is a common cause of sciatica in the Crossfit population because of the high volume of lifting. When the stability muscles of the hip and core fatigue, the piriformis muscle will be into spasm to increase stability.

symptoms of piriformis syndrome 

The symptoms of piriformis syndrome are very similar to sciatica symptoms from a disc herniation. There is frequently pain in the gluteal region and pain or numbness down the backside of the leg into the foot. Activities that contract the gluteal muscles, such as a squat or deadlift, will generally increase the symptoms. 

Treating Piriformis Syndrome 

For pain relief, chiropractic joint manipulation combined with soft tissue work to the low back and gluteal region can be beneficial. The chiropractic joint manipulation, also referred to as an adjustment, helps to mobilize the joints that are compressed when the muscles go into spasm. Soft tissue therapy, like self-myofascial release, pin and stretch, or Graston, help to decrease muscle spasm and therefore reduces compression on the sciatic nerve. 

For Crossfit athletes, a progressive exercise program is essential for a safe return to Crossfit. Pain relief is important in treatment, but if the stability of the hip and core are not addressed then the piriformis muscle will go back into spasm after lifting again.