The piriformis ( piriformis = “pear shaped”) is a muscle in the gluteal region of the lower limb. It is one of the six muscles in the lateral rotator group of the hip. The sciatic nerve passes underneath it and sometimes through it. Hyper tension of the piriformis can contribute to many kinds of Low Back Pain, also known as Piriformis Syndrome. The most common imbalance associated with this condition is associated weakness in the ” in-rotation” of the hip. This can lead to a feeling of a stiff hip when walking. Release of the piriformis muscle will lead to activation of the internal rotators, and reprogram of the dysfunctional movement pattern that has been stored in the motor control center. This change is first stored in short-term memory, so in order to reprogram this dysfunction fully, you will have to commit to a bit of homework.
The piriformis is also a co-worker for the gluteus maximus in extension of the hip and problems occur when there is a dysfunction in the gluteus maximus. The piriformis is not meant to do the work on its own. Furthermore, when there is dysfunction in the hip flexors, the piriformis and the quadratus lumborum starts working together to compensate for this dysfunction. This will then create a case of lower back pain.
The piriformis also externally rotates the sacrum and can be a major contributor to sacroiliac joint dysfunction. This is often seen in a dysfunctional gait pattern where loading on the forward moving leg is compromised. The sacrum normally externally rotates during this action. Examination of the muscles that contribute to this action, including those that create lateral flexion of the spine, is crucial in unraveling this pattern. .
A properly functioning piriformis muscle is crucial in maintaining a healthy lower back and sacroiliac.