Sports Massage Therapy

Does Deep Tissue Massage Help Piriformis Syndrome?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson July 3, 2022
Deep Tissue Massage on Legs

Deep tissue massage and sports massage is well known for helping to manage a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, but what about conditions relating to specific, deep-set muscles like the piriformis muscle? Can massage therapy help with Piriformis Syndrome? In this article we discuss how massage therapy can benefit Piriformis Syndrome, as well as detailing specific techniques that both massage therapists and the client can do to maximise results.

So, does deep tissue massage help Piriformis Syndrome? Deep tissue massage and sports massage can help to alleviate the symptoms of Piriformis Syndrome, easing and relaxing muscles, reducing pain levels, and allowing clients to return to normal function. At-home self-massage techniques can also help, and can maximise clients' results.

Read on to learn more about how deep tissue massage can benefit Piriformis Syndrome.

Can Deep Tissue Massage Help Piriformis Syndrome?

No treatment is a one-size-fits-all wonder-cure, however massage therapy can offer significant relief to clients with Piriformis Syndrome. Massage helps to ease tension and tightness within the muscle, reducing the pain and discomfort caused by Piriformis Syndrome. 

Whilst massage offers relief from the condition, clients can maximise their results with a combination of massage (ideally sports massage or deep tissue massage), eliminating the activity (or lack of activity) that caused the problem, the application of heat therapy to ease the muscles, and pain killers if absolutely necessary. 

What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis Syndrome is quite literally a pain in the backside, characterised by hip and buttock pain. It is a neuro-muscular condition, caused when the piriformis muscle spasms and causes pain. It can also irritate or compress the nearby sciatic nerve which can cause numbness and tingling in addition to the pain. 

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage for Piriformis Syndrome

The benefits of deep tissue massage for Piriformis Syndrome are largely centred around pain relief and easing muscular tension, allowing clients to live their life with reduced pain, and letting them get back pre-problem activity levels. Benefits include:

Eases and Relaxes Tight Muscles

Massage therapy helps to ease and relax muscle tension, releasing the lumbar, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and the piriformis. Soft tissue release can help to remove adhesions, scar tissue, and can help to realign the tissues. 

Encourages the Release of Pain Killing Endorphins

The release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine is a common benefit of massage therapy, offering pain relief, relaxation, and reduced anxiety and stress. 

Improves Range of Motion and Activity Levels

With the easing and relaxing of affected muscles and reduced pain levels, clients may find that their range of motion and activity levels also improve. Whilst it can be best to avoid the activity that caused Piriformis Syndrome, clients may be able to return to some level of activity with reduced discomfort. 

Where Do You Massage for Piriformis Syndrome?

Massage therapists can perform a deep tissue massage around the piriformis muscle. This involves a range of stretching and strengthening techniques that allow clients to return to normal function. 

Therapists should begin with the most superficial muscle, the gluteus maximus, as this is the key link between the lower back, hip, and pelvis that will help to restore overall motion in this area. Once the tightness in this area has been reduced, massage therapists should then start working towards the underlying piriformis muscle.

The piriformis muscle is quite deep and, as such, getting to it using massage can be uncomfortable for clients. To avoid muscle tightening as a response to this, therapists should take steps to reduce reactive tightening, for example, with the engagement lengthening techniques, followed with stretching and strengthening.

The next area to focus on is the hip abductors. Therapists should begin at the lateral pelvis using broad contact strokes, addressing the entire length of the gluteus medius and minimus, from the iliac crest down to the femur. After this, specific deep tissue massage techniques can begin which helps to increase blood flow to the affected area, contributing to a healing environment.

Can Clients Self-Massage Piriformis Syndrome at Home?

As we have already touched upon, clients can perform a range of activities and therapies at home to help maximise their outcome. This includes simple self-massage techniques such as:

Foam Roller Massage

A smooth foam roller has a large, soft surface area that provides a gentle massage, whereas more textured foam rollers can offer a deeper massage. However, the technique remains the same:

  1. Clients should sit on the foam roller with the ends pointing away from their sides. Feet should be flat on the floor, and hands should be supporting their weight from behind.

  2. Clients should then cross one ankle over the opposite knee before rolling back and forth until the discomfort has subsided.

  3. This should be continued for up to 60 seconds, then repeated on the other side.

Tennis Ball Massage

A tennis ball, or other similar sized ball, offers a more pin-pointed massage compared to the foam roller and allows clients to put more pressure on the piriformis than on the surrounding tissue. 

  1. Clients should sit on the ground, placing the ball under the side of their hip. Their hands should be supporting their weight from behind.

  2. Clients should cross their ankle over the opposite knee, then roll around on the ball until they locate the area of discomfort.

  3. They should then continue to roll over this area until the discomfort subsides, before repeating on the other side. 

Can Deep Tissue Massage Make Piriformis Syndrome Worse?

Massage therapy for Piriformis Syndrome is typically relatively safe, however, symptoms can be worsened if too much pressure is applied to the muscle during massage or other therapies. To avoid this, massage therapists should be in constant communication with their client to ensure that symptoms are not worsening, or that pain and discomfort is not beyond the norm for the type of massage being performed. If symptoms do worsen, stop the massage immediately. 

Sports Massage Training with Breeze Academy

If you’re interested in treating conditions such as Piriformis Syndrome through massage therapy, we offer a range of massage therapy courses across the UK to get your started on your journey. Our level 3 and level 4 sport massage courses deliver everything you need to confidently and competently relieve musculoskeletal issues with massage therapy. 

Learn more about our courses online, or get in touch for more information.

Don't miss out, stay updated

We'll email you about new courses and discounts