Piriformis syndrome: rehabbing a real pain in the ass

So it’s official: I’m a tight-ass. But only one butt cheek is afflicted. 

After a trip to the chiropractor to make sure my back was on point after sudden stiffness and pain after deadlifting, it turned out my shooting hip pain and sciatica was being caused by piriformis syndrome. 


What’s a piriformis?

To quote spine-health.com, “The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep in the buttock (behind the gluteus maximus).”

When it gets tight, injured or otherwise compressed, it sends pain through the hip and lower back, complete with tingling down the affected leg. 

I tried squatting with piriformis syndrome still in full effect. 

I wouldn’t recommend it. 

Injuries suck: squats and deadlifts dropped like a stone in the weeks post-ass strain. 

How do you rehab a tight piriformis?

Some say rest, others say move. 

Here’s my list  

  • Foam roll. A lot. I used a baseball to really get into the muscle and fuck me, it was horrendous. But effective. 
  • Rest. A little. Get back to movement and body weight movements asap to keep range of motion fluid.
  • Most of all, keep doing the work you can do that doesn’t cause pain. Cardio, stretching and getting back to hip-dominant movements as soon as feels comfortable are what worked for me. 

How I became a tight ass

Following an unsuccessful attempt to crack the 5 plate deadlift (though I’m coming for that mofo again soon) I went into a cycle of deficit deadlifts. 

Deficit deadlifts are performed on a 2-3 inch board to force greater engagement of the glutes and hams. They’re used to help build strength in the initial lift-off and aid lifters who struggle to break the bar from the floor if that’s the weakest part of their lift. 

These were going well and in the same week I pulled 2 reps of 180kg on deficit deadlifts, two days earlier I squatted 140 for reps. 

In hindsight I was overworked and not dedicating on recovery and mobility enough. Warm-ups were minimal and stretching was rarely thorough.  

What did I learn?

When it’s time to take a deload week and you’ve already skipped the last 2 deload weeks, it’s time to deload. 

Mobility is a buzzword but it’s still underrated. Stretch, roll and do whatever feels good to loosen up. That includes massage (find somewhere good, reputable and not renowned for other more personal services). 

Deficit deadlifts are fantastic for anyone who is struggling with breaking the bar off the floor. Run them for 1-2 cycles of 531 in place of regular deadlifts. 


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