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  • Writer's pictureAdam Whatley

What is the difference between Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome?

Updated: Mar 22

If you have ever experienced back pain and associated tingling / numbness you have likely heard the terms sciatica and piriformis syndrome before. These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but are piriformis syndrome and sciatica the same thing? NO. 

Sciatica is very commonly known but is not a medical diagnosis, but rather refers to irritation of your sciatic nerve. The correct diagnosis is radiculopathy, which referral commonly to referred pain from sciatic nerve irritation. For example, a lumbar herniated disc may irritate one of the five sciatic nerve roots that comprise your sciatic nerve, which in turn sends symptoms shooting down your sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome refers only to when your piriformis muscle (deep buttock muscle) irritates your sciatic nerve. This can often happen from piriformis spasm. So here you can see the difference between the two. So from this you may be able to see that your treatment plan for your piriformis syndrome may differ significantly from a treatment plan for someone suffering from sciatica from a lumbar spine problem (like a lumbar herniated disc). Moreover, you may actually make your symptoms worse if you perform a stretch intended for piriformis syndrome if you have a lumbar herniated disc. Therefore, it is essential to have the underlying cause of the pain, tingling, and/or numbness along your sciatic nerve properly diagnosed. Find out more or schedule a consultation

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