Piriformis Syndrome & Back Pain? What Your PT Will Do

Waking with back pain

Physical Therapy for Piriformis Causing Back Pain

Back pain is often debilitating and affects millions of people each year. Many seek relief from traditional medications such as painkillers or muscle relaxers, however, these treatments are often only temporary. Fortunately, physical therapy can provide long-term relief for those suffering from back pain due to piriformis syndrome. This article will discuss what to expect when beginning physical therapy for piriformis syndrome back pain, the types of exercises you might do, and how long recovery takes.


Piriformis syndrome leads to sciatic nerve compression, causing pain in the buttocks that radiates down the leg and a feeling of numbness or tingling on one side. While treatments such as stretching and heat or cold therapy may help, injections or physical therapy may also be necessary. Among these, physical therapy is a promising option, as it not only strengthens the muscles but also reduces nerve pressure.

What to Expect at Physical Therapy

When beginning physical therapy for piriformis syndrome-related back pain, your therapist will evaluate your current symptoms and tailor a personalized treatment plan according to your requirements. Using these assessments, they will also identify any potential hindrances that might impede your progress during treatment. To alleviate pressure on areas causing issues, like your lower back or buttocks area, your therapist will guide you through specific exercises designed to stretch out tight muscles effectively, with each session aiming towards reducing muscle strain.

What Types of Exercises You Might Do

Your physical therapist may suggest different types of exercises depending on your needs; however, there are certain stretches that can be beneficial when treating piriformis syndrome back pain. These include:

  • Seated Piriformis Stretch: Start by sitting with both feet flat on the floor hip-width apart then cross one ankle over the opposite thigh while keeping your spine neutral. Then lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the buttocks area hold for 30 seconds then repeat 3 times per side.
  • Standing Hamstring Stretch: Stand with both feet hip-width apart then bend at your hips while keeping a straight back until you feel a gentle stretch in the backs of your legs hold for 30 seconds then repeat 3 times per side.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Lie face down with arms stretched out in front then bring one knee up towards the chest while keeping the other leg flat on the floor hold for 30 seconds then repeat 3 times per side.
  • Gluteal Activation Exercises: Lie face down with arms stretched out in front then squeeze glutes together while lifting one leg off the floor as high as possible hold for 10 seconds then switch sides repeating 3 times per side.
  • Core Strengthening Exercises: Side Plank – Lie on the right side with legs straight and left arm bent under the head supporting body weight lift hips off the ground until the body forms one straight line from shoulders to ankles hold the plank position 10 seconds then switch sides repeating 3 times per side.

How Long Recovery Takes

Several factors determine the recovery duration from piriformis syndrome, including symptom duration, severity, and adherence to the prescribed exercises/treatment plan. Typically, results start appearing between 4-6 weeks, and full recovery may take 8-12 weeks or more, depending on age, activity levels, and individual circumstances.

It is essential to continue follow-up care, even after the symptoms significantly reduce, and address any underlying issues before they become troublesome in the future due to improperly managed recovery. Neglecting proper care now could result in severe complications down the line that could have otherwise been avoided.


Piriformis Syndrome can be painful and disruptive. Fortunately, physical therapy is among the several treatment options available and has helped many seek relief from their symptoms. Tailored sessions including stretches and exercises increase strength around affected areas, and noticeable improvements can happen within 4-6 weeks, though full recovery can take longer depending on severity. With proper management, individuals can feel better than ever before!