Finally, I realise what this chronic pain is – Piriformis Syndrome.
After nearly four years of suffering – I believe this stems from physical trauma a few years earlier – my physio told me the name of the place in my thigh, where the pain goes shooting down. “Femur.” She mumbled. In retrospect, she seemed to have said it like she’d had a revelation, which she was too startled to share…and now I know why. Because as soon as I entered femur pain in the search engine and came up with sciatica pain, it then led to piriformis syndrome.
This physio has been looking after me for my chronic pain, on-and-off 3 years now, she should have known earlier about my femur pain. She is a highly trained physio; surely she already knew the existence of piriformis syndrome? If so, then she and all the various GPs, surgeons and specialists I’ve seen had overlooked it – either they were not really listening, or not really caring, or had no idea that piriformis syndrome existed.
To her credit, my physio was the only medical professional who had detected the partial hip dislocations – of which happened a few times – and corrected it, by re-aligning my hips. However, after re-aligning my hips, what I and my family couldn’t understand was, why was the pain still persisting?
I’d had blood and bone tests and x-rays, and ultrasonic scan. Everyone agreed it must be sciatica, muscle pain. But what is causing it?
I have trouble even resting my hand on that thigh (femur), and if one of my little dogs even jumps on that thigh it can trigger agony for the rest of the day. Walking normal distances, with a normal gait, is out of the question: I have limited mobility as the pain levels sour as soon as I begin walking, resulting in inflammation and stiffness, which impacts my already slow gait to the speed of a snail! Why don’t you walk normally? my physio asked, I told her what I just wrote here, adding that if I persist, I then experience shooting, lightning pains up and down my spine, buttocks, leg. Indeed, on a few occassions I have fallen because of this.
It always feels like something is ‘knotted up’ inside, like it needs to be released. Why else would the inflammation be happening?
Due to my chronic – relentless! – pain, my quality of life is poor. I rarely go out now because it takes so much out of me. When I do, I use a ‘stick’, and for longer distances, the mobility scooter my mum bought me.
I am denied disability benefit which would lead to a BlueBadge (disabled parking) as someone in the medical profession had wrongly informed them that I can walk long distances, albeit slowly! I was shocked and angry at this news, the long awaited response of my disability claim, that arrived in October of last year. I had to wait 5 months for that bit of news…about being called a liar and denied the help I need. Double whammy.
Another thing which is certainly not helping is the size of my chest. The added weight from my bust must further aggrevate my problem. The NHS (National Health Service in the UK) says I am legible for the breast reduction but only if I reduce my weight…but how to lose 2 or 3 stone when you’re barely able to walk?! At this point in my life I am unable to privately afford the OP at £7000. In my case the reduction is definitely NOT cosmetic.
Below I’ve written some Q&A relating to piriformis syndrome. If you suspect – or have already been diagnosed with this – I would love to hear from you. As of yet, due to not knowing what I have, I haven’t met one person who has piriformis syndrome too. I had been living till now with a ‘health problem’ with no name.
What is piriformis syndrome? Muscle, piriformis: A muscle that begins at the front surface of the sacrum (the V-shaped bone between the buttocks at the base of the spine) and passes through the greater sciatic notch to attach to the top of the thigh bone (femur) at its bony prominence called the greater trochanter. The gluteus maximus muscle covers over the piriformis muscle in the buttocks.
The piriformis muscle takes its name from the Latin “pirium”, pear + “forma”, shape. It was thought to be shaped like a pear.
Piriformis syndrome: It is due to irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by compression of the nerve within the buttock by the piriformis muscle. Typically, the pain of the piriformis syndrome is increased by contraction of the piriformis muscle, prolonged sitting, or direct pressure applied to the muscle. Buttock pain is common. The piriformis syndrome is one of the causes of sciatica.
The piriformis syndrome can cause difficulty walking due to pain in the buttock and lower extremity.
Why hasn’t one of my doctors or surgeons diagnosed piriformis syndrome? According to my ‘net research, piriformis syndrome is often underdiagnosed. (This reminds me of endometriosis, a disease which is also not at the forefront of medical minds).
How can I tell if I have it? To be properly diagnosed, you must have a doctor examine you, usually by means of a rectal.
Treatment of piriformis syndrome pain – NOT walking, but rest. Pain killers and also the type of medicene to deal with the inflammation. TENS machines and heat packs may help.
How to get better from piriformis syndrome – Special stretching exercises – ideally learnt from a good physiotherapist (this is where I can thank my physio) – not only to ease the pain, but to try to fix the over-stretched piriformis muscle. Rarely, for severe cases, surgery is performed to relieve the pressure irritating the sciatic nerve. During surgical operations, the piriformis muscle is either thinned, elongated, divided, or removed.
Why doesn’t an MRI scan help identify piriformis syndrome? An MRI only helps in identifying bones and muscles, it’s not able to detect certain ligaments and nerve tissue due to their fine density. However, through a search on YouTube, I came across a surgeon in California, USA, who specialises in piriformis surgery and who says has pioneered the first ever piriformis scanner: MR Neurography www.neurography.com
Dr. Aaron Filler of the Institute for Nerve Medicine in Santa Monica, California (http://www.nervemed.com)
Dr Aaron Filler’s Blog.
click on diagram to enlarge
Copyright SteffNouveau 2011