My Pain in the Butt (Piriformis)

I actually wrote this before Christmas, but forgot to post it, so it’s a little old… but I wanted to get it up…  

Piriformis Trouble (Aka… A Pain in the Ass)

#Day 88 Since Surgery

It’s been awhile since I updated my blog. To be honest, part of the reason is because I haven’t felt very positive about my surgical success. About three weeks ago, the pain in my right upper thigh and butt started back up pretty powerfully. This was a huge disappointment!

It was like overnight I went from feeling pretty good to feeling like I had never had surgery. For no apparent reason. I didn’t fall. I didn’t have any sort of accident. I didn’t twist myself.   I just started to throb. And throb. And throb.

The logical explanation is that physical therapy is to blame- that I’ve overdone it. Too much, too soon; but even though that would be a convenient excuse and I feel like I need something to blame- I really don’t feel like I overworked my body. The exercises and stretches we were doing in physical therapy weren’t exactly hard and although I know I can’t see what I’m doing to my nerves on the inside, I think I would know if I had pushed my body to a breaking point.

Now, the “soft tissue work”, on the other hand- there were a couple of sessions where my therapist was really working that tissue and it felt like it was almost bruising (not that I’m blaming him)… but if I were to put more of a blame… I would say that the pushing on the incision area was likely worse for me than the exercises and stretching.

But alas, the pain is there.

So about two weeks ago, I was on the physical therapy table on my hands and knees doing an exercise called the “donkey kicks” and my leg was hurting and I was thinking to myself that I really wished ATI (the PT company I go to) had an anatomy picture of an ass on the wall. I wanted to see the muscles / nerves in the back of my butt/thigh so I could see what exactly was hurting. (By the way, they have these fathead-type pictures of knees and spines and things, so my thought was so far off…)

When I got home that night, I looked up “pain in the butt” in a Google search. I don’t know why I have never done this before. Maybe I thought a picture of my children would pop up. Hahaha.

The results list had a few top results that had a term that was similar: the word “Piriformis” or “Piriformis Syndrome”. So I clicked on one of the first websites that mentioned it to see what it was all about.

The first website I took a look at was a chiropractor’s blog:

and it described piriformis syndrome by saying that it is usually misdiagnosed as a slipped disc or other chronic low back pain.

On another website (Prevention), “”When the piriformis hip muscle tightens up it can strangle the nearby sciatic nerve triggering buttocks pain that often shoots down the back of one leg,” explains neurosurgeon Aaron Filler, MD, PhD.” (Source:

And then if I just looked up Piriformis Syndrome, I found Spine Health’s section on it:

They always have great videos that explain things in great detail.

After watching the videos (there are also some other ones on youtube) and reading some other websites/articles and talking to my physical therapist- I am pretty convinced that my leg pain is actually being caused by my piriformis muscle.

Which 1) concerns me because Did I actually need surgery? (Yes, I know my MRI showed a broken vertebrae and my disc height was pretty much nothing, so I know I did, but that was my first reaction…)   2) Is this something that I can actually fix- since there is no surgery for muscles.

So then we went about trying to start to alleviate the symptoms. We are still working on the stretching the back muscles and core building; but we are also working on the piriformis muscle- which means that my physical therapist’s “soft tissue” work has changed from massaging my incision area to using his elbow in my butt! It sounds funny, but it feels good (in a hurt me – but feels good- kind of way).

Luckily, we had a hard foam roller at home that my husband had purchased while training for his marathon, so I’ve been using that daily- sometimes a couple of times per day. I can actually feel the muscle rolling along the roller. It just sort of pops off of it with this burst of pain. Back and forth I go – it feels just like a piece of filet mignon attached to a piece of cardboard rolling against a rolling pin.

I also have been bringing a tennis ball to work so I can sit on it. I put it in the trouble area of my butt and it kind of digs in there. Like a pressure point. Today I also sat on the floor during lunch in my cube and used the tennis ball like the foam roller. It didn’t work quite as well (it would have been better if I had two tennis balls connected, but beggers can’t be choosers!)

I CAN tell you that my leg is ACTUALLY getting better!! I honestly didn’t think it would- which is probably why I stopped writing for several days. I was honestly quite dejected and miserable.   But, I am thinking positively today that I can do this and that the rolling is actually helping and I know there are other exercises out there as well specifically for the piriformis muscles. It’s just a matter of finding them and actually doing them.

Exercises for Piriformis Syndrome

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