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Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome - Causes and Options for Treatment

Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome - Causes and Options for Treatment

Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome

What is Sciatica? 

Sciatica is a term used to describe nerve pain in the leg that is caused by irritation, pinching, inflammation and/or compression of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica originates in the lower back, radiates deep into the buttock, and travels down the leg. This pain can be described as shooting pain, tingling or numbness. Sciatica pain can be caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, slipped disc and arthritis.

What is Piriformis Syndrome? 

Piriformis Syndrome can present symptoms similar to Sciatica as it causes numbness, tingling and shooting pains from the buttock and travels down the leg. Piriformis Syndrome is different from Sciatica as the irritation to the nerve does not originate from the spine, but rather from the impingment of the sciatic nerve when it goes past the Piriformis muscle. When the Piriformis muscle is inflammed/spasming/enlarged it can present very similar to Sciatica. Treatments are handled differently for this condition than how Sciatica is addressed so it is always advised to reach out to your healthcare profession for a formal diagnosis to determine where the impingement of the nerve is occurring. 


Function of Sciatic Nerve:

  • Activates muscles of the lower leg including the calf, ankle, and back of the knee
  • Supplies sensation to the sole of the foot, the ankle, lower leg, and back of the thigh. 
  • Allows movements of the lower limbs making walking, running, climbing, lifting weights and standing possible.



Did you know?

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc compressing the sciatic nerve. Lack of core strength, osteoarthritis, improper posture during weight lifting activities, diabetes and an inactive lifestyle can also contribute to the spinal changes that trigger sciatica. 

Treatment Options:

Osteoarthritis causes degeneration of the cartilage in the spine over time. This degeneration can cause irritation to the Sciatic nerve which then presents symptoms of Sciatica. Our recommendation that may assist with reducing this pain is to use a compression brace to reduce the inflammation in the joint. We offer the Bauerfeind LumboTrain and LumboTrain Lady which offers medical grade compression. The triangular friction pad in the support provides a stimulating massage effect to the muscles of the lower back with every movement to help to reduce tension in the lumbar region and relieve pain. Made with a breathable, skin-friendly material that adapts to fit your body shape. We recommend following up with your physiotherapist for prescribed exercises to maintain core strength for best back stabilization. 

If you experience sciatica pain as a result of a herniated or slipped disc at L4/L5, a compression brace with metal stays may be a good option. A herniated disc at L4/L5 can cause a purtrusion of the disc which could apply pressure to the sciatic nerve. The DonJoy Immostrap is an immobilizing back brace which would remind you to flex with the hips (and not with the lower back) to spare the spine. The rigid stays allow for this brace option to be suitable for both heavy-duty tasks and leisure activites. The compression offered with this brace may assist with reducing inflammation as well for further pain reduction assistance. Always remember with any immobilizing back brace to continue exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist to keep your core muscles strong.

Although you can experience Sciatica-like pains with Piriformis Syndrome the cause and treatments are different as it is not due to a compressed nerve in the spine, but a compression on the sciatic nerve from the Piriformis muscle spasming or having inflammation. The Revolution Back Belt is a great low profile option to provide support when there is an impingement from the Piriformis muscle. Movements that can trigger this pain can be from overuse or repetitive movements. Always remember to reach out to your physiotherapist to receive stretches and exercises.

Reminder: Brace options will depend on where the compression of the nerve occurs. Please consult your Physician to confirm.

Check out some of our products to treat Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome

Need a device to assist with Sciatica or Piriformis Syndrome but not sure which brace is right for your condition? Contact our Kinesiology team today for fast free advice.

13 days ago
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