Therapeutic Ultrasound and Piriformis Syndrome
Many times sciatica is associated with a herniated disc in the lower back or other types of back problems. However, there is a condition that involves a small muscle deep in the buttock area that can mimmic sciatica without involving the lower back. This condition is called Piriformis syndrome. This is a condition where the piriformis becomes inflamed and irritates the sciatic nerve causing pain to travel from the buttocks to the leg.
This is often an overuse injury often seen in runners and can sometimes be seen in people who sit for too long on a consistent basis. Other common causes of piriformis syndrome include overpronation of the feet, weak abductor muscles, tight adductor muscles and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
Treatment involves stretching exercises, avoiding activities that increase the pain, massage, and therapeutic ultrasound. The stretching exercise of choice is the “Figure 4” exercise, where the affected leg is crossed over the good leg forming a figure 4. Both legs are then pulled closer to the body and a stretch is felt in the gluteal area. Massaging the muscle will help the muscle to be under less tension and remove irritation off the sciatic nerve. Using therapeutic ultrasound therapy will help to increase circulation to the muscle, increase nutrients into the muscle, and stimulates growth factors in the muscles cells that allow it to heal faster.
Once the inflammation has gone down, the sciatica-like symptoms should disappear. It is recommended to continue stretching the muscle on a daily basis and slowly start walking before starting a rigorous exercise program.