Piriformis syndrome can often have symptoms similar to sciatica and both have as key note symptoms of inflammation. In Piriformis syndrome the piriformis muscle presses on the sciatic nerve and is can be seen in runners and soccer players.
There is also a higher incidence of piriformis syndrome in females and it is not known why.
In sciatica, the source of the problem stems from the lower back and sometimes may involve a herniated disc. Weekend athletes and sedentary office workers sitting for long hours may be prone to piriformis syndrome. Diagnosis involves tests such as Freiberg’s maneuver and the Merkin test.
Traditional Chinese medicine takes into account the constitutional strength of the patient. Over work and excess straining from training causes deficiency and depletion of energy allowing them to become susceptible to injury.
How does the constitution affect disposition to piriformis syndrome according to traditional Chinese medicine?
Everyone is born having certain strengths and weaknesses such as strong kidney energy or weak liver energy. If for example, one is prone to an inherited weakened liver energy, the sinews, that is ligaments and tendons may be vulnerable to an injury. The aging process also depletes energy generally and may be another factor in why traditional physicians have a treatment strategy known as tonifying deficiency to help conditions like this.
How is the pain experienced in piriformis syndrome viewed according to traditional Chinese medicine terms?
A severe injury causes the acupuncture meridian lines to become blocked which is known in Chinese medical terms as energy (qi) and blood stasis. When there is blockage, there is pain. Acupuncture is used to unblock meridians and promote energy circulation.
Can external environmental factors play a role in piriformis syndrome?
Authors Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau in their book, The Treatment of Modern Medical Disease with Chinese Medicine, state that some modern doctors in Chinese hospitals have the opinion that over exposure to extremes of weather involving cold, damp and wind can lodge into the susceptible inured area and complicate and hinder the recovery process. These patients make experience aggravations of symptoms in sudden weather changes when it becomes cold, damp and windy. In these cases, Chinese herbs may be used that have the traditional use of resolving damp or extinguishing wind. A simple herb like yi yi ren (Pearl Barley) may be used as one of the herbs in a formula combination to treat piriformis syndrome. Moxibustion may also be used to warm and tonify the yang energy which can also improve blood circulation.
Some traditional acupuncturists treat the stomach and abdomen when treating piriformis syndrome, why is this?
Alan Jansson, who specialises in traditional Japanese acupuncture needling techniques practises in Queensland, Australia. He says “Needling of the abdomen is a common procedure when treating nearly any complaint with traditional Japanese acupuncture. We always treat the abdomen before treating the back, and one technique is to locate painful acupuncture points on the abdomen and retain the needles for some length of time before starting our root treatments, where we address the underlying constitutional imbalance“.
Is there anything that can be done to help the recovery of Piriformis Syndrome?
The well known coach Bethany Eanes who writes for Breaking Muscle, suggests that rest is of utmost importance in the recovery of both sciatica and piriformis syndrome.