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Muscle Specific Self Care: Piriformis

Piriformis Pain

Photo: 3D Atlas of Anatomy
Catfish Animation Studio

The largest of the deep hip rotators, the piriformis can be responsible for the common ailment of pseudo-sciatica or piriformis syndrome.

It is important to note the difference between pseudo-sciatica and true sciatica.

What is Sciatica?

True sciatica involves the compression of the sciatic nerve due to a slipped or herniated disc.
This is more of a structural problem that requires the attention of either a chiropractor or surgeon depending on the severity.

What is Pseudo-Sciatica

Pseudo-sciatica or piriformis syndrome has the same symptoms but is caused by an impingement on the sciatic nerve due to binding or tightness in the soft tissue that can be released through massage techniques and/or stretching.
While the symptoms and severity may vary, pseudo-sciatica usually involves pain, tingling or numbness in the buttocks and can include shooting sharp pains down the leg as far down as the knee or the ankle.
Piriformis Pain

How Can I Alleviate Piriformis Pain?

One of the things you can do to alleviate and avoid this condition is regularly stretching this muscle with the following techniques shown in the infographic below:
Piriformis Stretches infographic

Tennis Balls Aren’t Just For Tennis

Additionally, you can self-care the piriformis by rolling and massaging the muscle with a tennis ball. After stretching the piriformis muscle take a tennis ball, place it under your piriformis and lay on it. This will work out a trigger point, or a knot within the muscle. Lay on the ball for 30 seconds. Relax for one minute. Repeat the process four to five times.

While we encourage self-care as much as a dentist encourages brushing one’s teeth, these techniques are not designed to replace professional massage maintenance any more than regular brushing and flossing can replace regular dental checkups.

Learn from our other Muscle Specific Self Care articles:

Specific Muscle Self Care: Masseter Muscles

Muscles of the Skull Masseter Muscle

The masseter muscle is the facial muscle that is largely responsible for chewing foods. It connects the lower jaw bone and the cheekbone. The masseter muscles consist of two tiers; the superficial and deep parts.

The Function of the Masseter

During chewing, the masseter is assisted by three other muscles: the temporalis, medial pterygoid, and lateral pterygoid. The four muscles work together to pull the jaw down and back up again. The masseter is the key muscle that pulls the mandible upward.

Not only is the masseter responsible for chewing, but it also bears the conscious or subconscious burden of teeth grinding and jaw clenching. The amount of stress put on the masseter muscle leads to common ailments such as headaches and TMJ dysfunction. 

Headaches can originate from just about any muscle or combination of muscles in the head or neck. 

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and like any joint can be aggravated by its adjacent musculature. While there are certainly joint issues that can cause TMJ many cases result from a muscular aggravation of the masseter.

Accessing the Masseter Muscle

Access to this muscle is simple given its orientation to the hands. To work the masseter, start at the attachments just below the cheekbone and work your way down. Then massage the attachments on the jaw bone and work your way up. Finally, gently apply pressure to the belly or middle of the muscle working out any areas of tenderness as needed. If you have any questions about where this muscle is located, simply clench your jaw for a moment and it will stick out like a sore thumb.

It is impossible to completely relax when you are performing any muscular self-care. So while it is always helpful it’s no substitute for professional treatment and a regular massage maintenance plan.

Learn from our other Muscle Specific Self Care articles:

We MUST Go Within to Express the Power of the Body, Mind and Soul

Lora Lindquist met with Natalie Viglione, president and CEO of TeamGu, live in-studio in Charlotte, NC for episode 28 of the Disrupt Now podcast series.

Natalie and Lora discussed some major issues we face – complacency and laziness is a rampant problem among humans and the way they operate in companies. And, an even larger issue, you can tell when company leaders are focused on profit ONLY, not the art of serving the people that pay for their services or products. How did we get so flipped in what’s important?

We each 100% hold the power to change, to heal, to do amazing things in this world, and this power does come from within! They explored Lora’s journey, the art of healing our bodies, being a mother and owning a business in today’s world. 

Listen to the podcast below:

 

“You Want to Massage Where?”

Massage therapy in the pelvic region is essential to achieving results for a variety of ailments.

Many people may initially feel uncomfortable with bodywork in these areas and even question the legality of such therapy. For those with such concerns, allow me to quote directly from the Rules and Regulations of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy; Section .0506 (4) Draping Requirements states:

Ensure that the following areas are draped during treatment: the gluteal and genital areas for male and female clients, and the breast area for female clients. With the voluntary and informed consent of the client, the gluteal and breast drapes maybe temporarily moved in order to perform therapeutic treatment to structures in those areas.

While each state may have its own specific wording, the principle is consistent that gluteal and groin work is not only legal but recommended for a variety of conditions as long as the genitals remain draped and untouched.

For those uncomfortable with direct skin contact in this area, bodywork can also be offered through the sheets on these important muscle groups and attachment sites. What is most important in performing this part of Massage Therapy is that the lines of communication between client and therapist remain open and free-flowing.

The pelvis is the literal hinge of the body and affects both upper and lower body wellness. It is imperative as we work with our clients that we find a way inside each individual’s comfort level to adequately work this region.

For those skeptical about the ability of your therapist to work the pelvis inside your comfort level, I would encourage you to find a Massage Therapist who is confident and competent in this area to experience the difference that comprehensive pelvic work brings to your quality of life.