Is it Sciatica or Piriformis Syndrome?

Tell someone you have sciatica and chances are they will know you have shooting leg and buttock pain. Tell someone you have piriformis syndrome and they don’t know what you’re saying.

The term “Sciatica” is so over used and common that to some people the first sign of buttock pain automatically means it is sciatica.   The term sciatica is more of a description than a clinical diagnosis but it is so common doctors have accepted the term and use it freely.   “Sciatica” is actually an irritation of the sciatic nerve.  This large nerve runs from the back through the buttock muscle and continues down into the back of the leg, splitting when it gets to the back of the knee cap.   True sciatica is irritation of this nerve. The nerve can be irritated by joints in the low back, a disc herniation, or a muscle entrapement.   Each one of these scenarios has its own proper clinical term which accurately defines the reason for the “sciatica”. 



When the sciatic nerve becomes entraped in the piriformis muscle the resulting pain is called  Piriformis Syndrome.  Piriformis syndrome, in addition to causing gluteal pain that may radiate down buttocks and the leg, may also present with pain that is relieved by walking with the foot on the involved side pointing outward. This position externally rotates the hip, lessening the stretch on the piriformis and relieving the pain slightly. Piriformis syndrome is also known as “wallet sciatica” or “fat wallet syndrome,” as the condition can be caused or aggravated by sitting with a large wallet in the affected side’s rear pocket



There are several ways a doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor can assess where the sciatic pain is coming from.  Often that means ruling out conditions like joint problems, and lumbar muscle strain and performing tests that stress and stretch the piriformis muscle. If you are experiencing leg pain contact the office for a personalized assessment with one of our chiropractors or physiotherapist.



Dr. Sarah Chajka believes that Chiropractic care is beneficial to all. Her upbringing in an active family and years of discipline through sport and dance have reinforced this as well as witnessing the transforming effect of chiropractic treatment on all ages. While working at the Health Centre of Milton she has further developed her interest in preventative health and healing and has taken extra courses in order to give specialized attention to pregnancy and paediatrics. For more information visit the clinic website at