Your Daily Piriformis Syndrome Management Check List

Some days, I run. Some weeks, I run. Some months, I run.

Like over the last two weeks, I’ve run nearly every day — from the west side highway, to the East River, to Central Park and Soho (exhale, it’s been way too long since I’ve been able to say that).

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While consistent, my running habits haven’t exactly been concrete throughout the years. Like many runners, I go through days, weeks, months when all I can think about is the next time I’ll throw on my sneakers and break a sweat outdoors; but I also through through days, weeks, and, well, maybe not months, but at least extended periods of time when all I want is to forget that I ever considered myself a runner and sit on my lazy behind. Wah.

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I actually believe it’s important to embrace these ebbs and flows of running. It’s part of leading an overall moderate and healthy lifestyle, and I like to think it’s one that I’ve maintained year after year after year (or at least since, you know, I didn’t consider myself to be a health nut).

At any rate, piriformis syndrome — a common condition for many female runners, especially those who crave pavement as much as I do — is as much a concern during streak weeks as having enough sports bras to get me through my next excursion.

I didn’t always have “runner’s issues,” or pain, or injuries, or whatever you want to call them. In fact, I ran for nearly 5 years without knowing that runners can even suffer from what’s known to most of us as basic “overuse.”

Piriformis syndrome was the first ailment to afflict me physically — a deep, dull pain in the hip and butt cheek. If you’ve had it, then you know that it feels as though all you really need is a never-ending massage. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time or money for that.

What started as a one-time thing is now a “runner’s problem” I face all the freaking time. I tend to notice piriformis syndrome whenever I run back to back to back (and so on) days (hence, what’s going on in my body right now).

The major difference in the me of yesteryear, who continued to run without addressing the issue, and the me of today is that, in the present, I know how to counteract the effects of a wonky butt cheek. Yea, I said it.

The following is a quick rundown (pun intended) of the day to day things I do to keep my own piriformis syndrome at bay. If you’re a regular runner who experiences similar issues, I hope you’ll find it helpful — and that you’ll share the methods to your madnesses too.

1. Foam roll on the reg. It hurts, but it’s a necessary evil. Be sure to hit the IT bands as well as the glutes.

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2. Make a fist. The strange thing about piriformis syndrome is that it doesn’t really rear its ugly head until you’re sitting still. Strange, right? Anyway, when uncomfortable at work, I’ll sometimes make a fist and kneed it into my hip.

3. Massage. Treat yourself to a professional massage with a sports therapist or other specialist.

4. Try a tennis ball. Rolling a tennis ball into your muscle actually enables you to get into the little nooks often missed by a large foam roller.

5. Cross-train. Piriformis syndrome flair ups often mean I’m not spending enough time strengthening my glutes. Leg lifts, squats, lunges and other cross-training exercises can help to manage the issue over time.

6. Take a breather. When all else fails, give your body a break. Remember, pain means it may be trying to tell you something. Listen.

7. Pigeon. This is hands down the number one best position for anyone with piriformis syndrome. Sit in it for a bit, and enjoy the release.

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8. And other yoga poses. Yoga is an incredible way to stretch and strengthen your muscles in an effort to reduce piriformis syndrome pain. Sign up for a class, turn on a YouTube video — whatever. Just do it! You’ll feel so much better after.

  • Have you ever experienced piriformis syndrome?
  • What are your tricks for piriformis pain management?
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7 thoughts on “Your Daily Piriformis Syndrome Management Check List

  1. I also experience piriformis syndrome. It is no fun, for sure! I treat it with pretty much all the things you mention here. Plus, I’m really working on strengthening my hips to help prevent it in the future. I also have been able to get a standing desk at work – staying upright and not sitting all day makes a HUGE difference.

  2. This is exactly the problem that I have. It turned into a much worse IT band problem last fall, which I seem to have kicked with rest and strength training, but I’ve noticed the dull ache all week while sitting at work. Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. Great job on explaining the ways to combat it. A pinkie ball works a bit better (if you’re a hard ass) than a tennis ball! Many downward dogs can give you the P-syndrome too. AHHH – we breath through it all.

  4. Piriformis Syndrome is the worst!! After a year of allowing it to keep me from running, I’ve finally found ways that I’ve been able to manage it. The big thing is rolling the area out (like you mentioned), I use a lacrosse ball- I find it works even better than a tennis ball because it’s more dense. Hurts like crazy but does wonders : )

    • That’s the theory with digging my fist into my hip 🙂 The worst. Glad you figured out ways to get past it too.

  5. All of these are good tips. I find that the “Twists” program from Rodney Yee’s AM Yoga For Your Week has some great poses that really get at my tight piriformis. I also found a great massage therapist who will spend the whole session on my tight ass (as I jokingly ask her!).

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