Pregnancy brings many changes to a woman’s body. Weight gain, shifting posture, and increased stress on the muscles and joints often lead to new aches and pains.
One condition that commonly arises during pregnancy is piriformis syndrome, which causes pain in the buttocks and legs.
Let’s take a closer look at what piriformis syndrome is, its causes during pregnancy, its symptoms, and how to find relief.
What Is Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome involves irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle located in the buttock region.
The piriformis muscle originates at the lower spine and attaches to the thigh bone, passing directly over the sciatic nerve.
When the piriformis muscle becomes tight or spasms, it can squeeze and irritate the sciatic nerve, resulting in shooting pain in the buttocks and legs.
What Happens In Piriformis Syndrome?
In piriformis syndrome, the enlarged uterus and extra weight of pregnancy shift a woman’s center of gravity forward.
This forces the piriformis muscle to stretch and strain in order to compensate. The hormonal changes of pregnancy also loosen joints and ligaments, which alters alignment and posture, further overworking the piriformis.
In some women, the piriformis muscle may already have been tight or overused prior to pregnancy as well.
The combination of muscle tightness and added strain can cause the piriformis to spasm and trap the sciatic nerve against the bone. This irritates the nerve and gives rise to the characteristic butt and leg pain.
Symptoms Of Piriformis Syndrome
Common symptoms of piriformis syndrome during pregnancy include:
Treatment Of Piriformis Syndrome
It’s important to treat piriformis syndrome in pregnancy to maintain mobility and prevent falls or injury. Conservative treatment options include:
In some cases, piriformis injection procedures may be considered after delivery to alleviate stubborn symptoms. Surgery is typically not recommended. With proper treatment, most mothers find relief from piriformis irritation during the postpartum period as the body rebalances.
Piriformis syndrome is a common source of sciatic nerve and buttock pain for expecting mothers.
the hormonal, postural, and muscular changes of pregnancy put extra strain on the piriformis muscle, allowing it to pinch and irritate the sciatic nerve. Being aware of this issue and using conservative therapies can help manage symptoms until delivery.
Staying active during pregnancy remains important, so work with your provider to control piriformis discomfort and prevent limitations in mobility.
Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include butt/leg pain, numbness or tingling down the leg, pain when climbing stairs or sitting, tenderness in the piriformis muscle, and worsening pain with activity. A doctor can confirm piriformis syndrome through a physical exam and imaging tests.
The extra weight gain, shifting center of gravity, loosened joints, muscle strains, and hormonal changes of pregnancy can all put extra stress on the piriformis muscle, causing it to spasm and trap the sciatic nerve.
Gentle stretching, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, acetaminophen, hot/cold therapy, maternity belts, and rest are safe ways to treat piriformis syndrome during pregnancy. Injections and surgery may be considered after delivery.
Most women find relief from piriformis syndrome within 3 months after giving birth as hormones normalize and weight is lost. But some may have symptoms persist and require further treatment postpartum.
Severe cases of piriformis syndrome can potentially make pushing during labor more challenging. But in most cases, it does not prevent a vaginal delivery. Let your provider know if you have been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome.