When normal activities like walking, climbing stairs, and sitting become difficult and painful, it makes life miserable. That's what happens with piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is a painful neuromuscular disorder that causes pain in your glutes and hips. The good news is this condition can be managed with different therapies. One of them is massage therapy. Specifically, a massage gun is a convenient and effective massage tool to treat piriformis syndrome.
Keep reading to learn all about piriformis syndrome, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment methods.
What is piriformis syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is a painful disorder in which piriformis muscles located under your buttocks spasm and compress the nearby sciatic nerve. It results in pain, tingling, and numbness that radiates from the buttocks to the back of the thigh and along the leg.
The piriformis muscles are small but very important muscles that have a flat, pyramid shape. These muscles are required for your lower body movement. They help stabilize the hip joints, enabling the thighs to move in various directions. Piriformis muscles also help the legs and feet to turn outward for walking and maintaining balance. These muscles support almost every movement of our hips and legs.
On the other hand, the sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in our body. It is responsible for all the sensations we have in our legs.
To understand piriformis syndrome, it is important to understand the anatomy. The piriformis muscles are located deep in the buttocks, behind the gluteus maximus. They stick out from the sacrum, run through the buttocks, and connect to the femur. The sciatic nerve originates from the lower back, passes alongside the piriformis muscle, and runs down the back of each leg.
Now you can see that because the piriformis muscles and sciatic nerves are so close to each other, any injury or irritation of the piriformis muscle can affect the sciatic nerve.
Piriformis injury causes muscle spasms which lead to swelling or tightening of the piriformis muscles. Ultimately, this builds pressure on the nearby sciatic nerve and causes pain and discomfort. This condition usually affects one buttock at a time, but sometimes it affects both hips simultaneously.
Usually, the sciatic nerve runs beneath the piriformis muscle. However, in about 15% of the population, it passes through the piriformis muscle. This makes that minority of the population more likely to suffer from Piriformis Syndrome.
Causes of piriformis syndrome
We utilize our piriformis muscles every day. We use them when we walk, run, climb stairs, and shift weight from one side to the other. In short, we use them whenever we move our lower body. Sometimes, the overuse of these muscles results in their strain and spasms. In turn, pressure increases on the sciatic nerve.
Here are some common causes of piriformis syndrome
- Worn-out muscles from excessive exercise or repetitive activities involving the legs like running or bicycling
- Sitting in the same posture for long periods
- Lifting heavy weight with improper form
- Any injury or trauma to the piriformis muscle, such as a bad fall, knife wound, vehicle accident, or direct hit on the muscles during sports
- Cerebral palsy
- Total hip arthroplasty (surgical repair)
- Anatomic anomalies such as bipartite piriformis muscle and branching variations of the sciatic nerve with respect to the piriformis muscle
Symptoms of piriformis syndrome
The most common symptom of piriformis syndrome is sciatic pain. Patients usually describe it as an intense, burning pain that begins from the lower back or buttocks and moves down the back of the leg into the thigh, calf, and foot.
Any activity that causes the piriformis muscle to press against the sciatic nerve can increase pain. Irritating activities include prolonged sitting, walking up stairs or inclines, and running.
Other symptoms may include numbness and tingling down the back of the leg and into the foot, difficulty in sitting, and decreased hip mobility.
Is massage helpful in piriformis syndrome?
Yes, massaging helps relieve symptoms associated with piriformis syndrome. With piriformis syndrome, tightening or spasming of the muscles put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Massage helps release the built-up tension and loosen the tight muscles. As a result, it reduces the pressure on the nerves and decreases pain and discomfort.
According to one study conducted in 2020, deep-friction massage can be significantly helpful in the reduction of low back pain caused by piriformis syndrome. It is reported that the group receiving the muscle energy technique along with deep-friction massage had greater improvements in range of motion and pain.
Another study conducted in 2009 published in MassageToday demonstrates that therapeutic deep-tissue massage and stretching improve chronic piriformis syndrome.
Are massage guns good for piriformis syndrome?
Yes, a massage gun can definitely be used for alleviating the pain and discomfort caused by piriformis syndrome.
Massage guns, also known as percussion massagers, are handheld massage devices that use vibration and deep oscillation to massage irritated muscles.
Massage is a commonly used treatment for piriformis syndrome. A deep-tissue massage of the thigh muscles is very helpful in managing the condition. Massaging these muscles with your hand can be a difficult and troublesome task. This is where a massage gun can be very helpful.
Best massage gun For piriformis syndrome
If you are looking for a massage gun to relieve your piriformis muscle pain, we recommend visiting the Zarifa USA website. We offer 3 different massage guns with excellent features.
Z Smart Massage Gun
- It is a portable massage gun that you can use for deep tissue massage whenever you want. It is especially great for targeting overlooked areas like the elbows, shoulders, and hips.
- It comes with a lightweight, compact carrying case.
- It charges quickly and can hold the charge for 5 hours.
- It has 20 different speed settings so that you can select the intensity of the gun according to your desires and needs.
- It has 8 different massage heads. You can choose the desired head depending on which muscle group or part of the body you are targeting.
- It offers 1200 to 3200 percussions per minute. You can easily customize the speed according to your comfort level.
- It comes with a touch screen, LED display, and quiet motors
Health+ Massage Gun
- It is a portable, easy-to-use massage gun.
- It utilizes zTech health sensors which help to track your heart rate, calorie burning, and body temperature.
- It comes with a lightweight gun case to store and carry the massage gun, head attachments, and battery charger.
- It has a responsive touch screen that displays your battery level, intensity, and health metrics.
- It has a battery life of up to 6 hours.
- It has 9 different speed levels and RPMs of oscillation from 1600 to 3500. You customize your massage according to your desires and needs.
- It comes with 8 different head attachments.
- It has a good stall force of 60 lbs and a high amplitude of 16mm for deep muscle tissue treatment.
- It has a powerful yet quiet motor.
The Mini-Massage Gun
- It is an amazingly portable massage gun that can easily fit in your pocket. It's lightweight, weighing only 1.25 lbs, and easy to travel with because of its compact design.
- It offers 1600 to 3500 RPMs, 12 mm of amplitude, and 5 speed levels.
- It comes with 4 different massage head attachments.
- The Z-Smart Mini Massage Gun charges with a USB Type C charger and has a 4-hour battery life.
- It operates quietly, offering a peaceful, noise-free massage.
What are the benefits of using a massage gun for piriformis syndrome?
The following are some benefits of using a massage gun for piriformis syndrome.
Increases blood circulation
A massage gun increases blood flow in the affected area and speeds up muscle healing. The increased supply of oxygenated blood helps restore the normal function of the piriformis muscles.
Reduces muscle spasms
A massage gun helps in loosening and stretching the muscles to relieve tension and relax the piriformis muscles. This reduces muscle spasms.
Reduces the pressure on the sciatic nerve
A massage gun softens the muscles and reduces spasms. This ultimately leads to relief of pressure on the sciatic nerve. In turn numbness, tingling, and painful sensations decrease.
Reduces pain and discomfort
Tightness and spasms of the piriformis muscle are the main reason for the pain and discomfort of piriformis syndrome. Gun massages help in alleviating the pain by relaxing the stiff muscles, reducing the muscle spasm, and easing the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Massaging the piriformis muscles and surrounding muscles can increase their flexibility and mobility. A massage gun effectively reduces muscle tension and makes muscles more flexible and easy to move.
A result of using a massage gun is the release of endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain relievers made in the body that can temporarily manage pain associated with piriformis syndrome. Additionally, endorphins reduce stress levels and prevent muscles from tightening immediately after a massage.
How to use a massage gun for piriformis syndrome?
First, select the head of the massage gun. It is recommended to start with the softer and broader head attachment, especially if you’re using a massage gun with high amplitude. Later on, you can switch to a firmer head attachment like the flat head.
Next, place the massage gun on your muscles and move the head of the massage gun in small circles to evenly distribute the pressure. For the best results, start the massage at muscles that are distant from the piriformis muscle and then move the massage gun slowly toward it.
Always remember, don't massage directly over the sciatic nerve, and do not apply too much pressure on it. This can irritate the sciatic nerve and increase sensitivity and pain. Start the massage with very light pressure and try to keep it pain-free.
Once you feel comfortable, you can slowly increase the pressure and speed. In case of any sharp or shooting pain in your buttock or thigh, stop the massager immediately.
If you have any medical conditions or concerns, always consult your doctor before using a new therapy like a massage gun.
How long should a massage gun be used?
Massage guns should only be applied to a particular area for 1 to 2 minutes at a time. Try to keep it moving rather than static in one area. Targeting an area for too long may result in bruising, soreness, and increased muscle tightness. You can use a massage gun up to 2 to 3 times a day. Noted that a massage gun can reduce inflammation if it is used correctly, but too much use can make the situation worse.
Are massage guns safe to use for piriformis syndrome?
Yes, massage guns are generally safe to use if you use them according to the manual instructions. Otherwise, it can lead to localized pain or aggravation of symptoms.
Keep the following factors in mind for the safe and effective use of a massage gun.
Where shouldn’t you use a massage gun?
The following are some areas you should avoid treating with a massage gun at home.
- Any injured or recently damaged areas (e.g. an acute muscle or ligament sprain)
- Bones, joints, or tendons
- Areas with reduced sensation and nerve damage
Who shouldn’t use a massage gun?
A massage gun should not be used by people without consulting a professional therapist if any of the following conditions apply.
- They have diabetes
- They have heart disease or vascular disease (including varicose veins)
- They are on blood thinning medication
- They are pregnant
How to select a good massage gun for piriformis syndrome?
The following are important factors to consider before purchasing a massage gun.
What is the amplitude of the massage gun?
The amplitude of a massage gun is the maximum extent of a vibration or oscillation, measured from the position of equilibrium. Guns with higher amplitudes will hit deeper as their heads will travel further. However, it is the speed of the massage gun which is commonly used to determine the intensity of the massage. A higher speed equates to a more intense massage.
Devices with higher amplitudes can feel more intense, even at a lower speed. Usually, more physically active users tend to prefer devices with high amplitudes. Athletes often require more intense massages, whereas a regular user might find the intensity too harsh for them. People with sensitive muscles who aren't regularly active usually prefer a device with low amplitude. It is up to you to decide what gun amplitude you want.
What is the RPM of the massage gun?
RPM stands for revolutions per minute and defines how many times a massage gun hits per minute. We describe the speed of a massage gun using RPMs. If the massage gun has a higher speed, the intensity of the massage will also be high.
Most massage guns feature a speed range of around 2000 RPM to 3200 RPM. It is best if the massage gun has a range of different speeds. This way, users can easily choose the speed and intensity depending on their preferences and conditions.
How noisy is it?
Try to choose a massage gun that is not noisy. Otherwise, it may interfere with your relaxation. It could help your muscles but give you a headache.
How heavy is it?
Try to choose a lightweight massage gun so that it's easy to hold and operate. A lighter massage gun is especially helpful if you have to massage a hard-to-reach place like your shoulder.
How many attachments does it have?
Try to choose a massage gun that comes with different attachments and heads. If you want to massage a target area, it will be easy for you to select the most suitable attachment for doing the job.
Usually, ball-shaped heads work better for big muscle groups. U-shaped attachments are best for the back and shoulders. Smaller heads are great if you want to get deep into a muscle.
How long is its battery life?
Try to choose a massage gun with good battery life. This way, you don't have to charge it as often.
Piriformis syndrome, which is sometimes mistaken for sciatica, is a condition where the piriformis muscle entraps the sciatic nerve. It can make simple activities, such as standing up or sitting down, painful.
Depending on the severity of the condition, some cases require consultation with a doctor. Some cases can be solved at home with a lot of rest, gentle exercise, and massage therapy.
If you opt for massage therapy for piriformis syndrome, consider investing in a good massage gun. It is the most convenient and cost-effective option, and it provides all the benefits of a massage therapist's hands in the comfort of your home.
When it comes to which massage gun you should select, after reading this article, you have an idea of what features a good massage gun should have. Zarifa USA massage guns not only have all the ideal features, but they are also easy to use. They're the best value for your money!
It is important to consult with your doctor before starting the use of any massage gun, especially if you have any doubts or pre-existing conditions.
All Zarifa USA products are HSA and FSA-eligible. This means you can contribute your health savings funds towards the purchase of any of our products!