Piriformis Syndrome & the Effects of Massage

In piriformis syndrome, the piriformis muscle is tight and compresses the sciatic nerve, causing pain in the buttocks and often down the back of the leg. Massage can relax the piriformis muscle so that it no longer compresses the nerve.


The piriformis is a small muscle deep in the buttocks. It can become overly tight due to trauma, such as from a fall or accident; overuse, as happens in some sports; or misaligned pelvic bones.

Sciatic Nerve

The sciatic nerve begins at the base of the spine and runs through the buttocks and down the back of the leg. Because it runs under the piriformis, a tight piriformis can press on it, causing irritation and pain. The resulting inflammation can also cause scar tissue adhesions.


Because the piriformis is a deep muscle, superficial massage techniques are unlikely to have the desired effect. Specific deep massage is needed to relax the piriformis muscle, break up scar tissue adhesion and stretch the muscle fibers.


According to the Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies, massage may cause some soreness, which should decrease within 30 seconds. If the pain becomes worse, the massage therapist may be applying pressure on the nerve instead of on the muscle.

In piriformis syndrome