What is Hip Bursitis? Injury Overview

Are you worried about hip bursitis?

Read on to find out what causes hip bursitis, how to treat it, and everything else you need to know.

A massage therapist giving a man a massage

How to Massage the Piriformis Muscle

Massages offer a proven method to alleviate and heal the piriformis muscle. Learn the benefits of massage in addition to how a professional can help and how to self-massage.


The piriformis muscle is located deep in the glute. The muscle originates at the hip joint and pelvis and extends to the top of the femur, which is the thing bone.

Piriformis syndrome develops when the muscle becomes inflamed or irritated. The irritated muscle can also spasm. Both the inflammation and the spasms can affect the nearby sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve's irritation from piriformis syndrome can lead to various symptoms. Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include:

  • Pain in the back or glutes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Symptoms may be worse when sitting
  • Numbness and tingling radiating down the leg

Piriformis syndrome can develop due to several reasons, such as:

  • Prolonged sitting
  • Muscle tightness
  • Overuse
  • Trauma to the piriformis muscle

Five Benefits of a Massage

Massage is a great option to treat piriformis syndrome. It is a noninvasive and nonpharmaceutical way to treat piriformis syndrome without side effects. The benefits of piriformis massage include the following:

  • Improved blood flow: One of the main benefits of massage for piriformis syndrome is improved blood flow to the area, which promotes healing.
  • Reduced inflammation: Massage may help decrease inflammation in several ways. Research indicates it may help combat inflammation by blunting the inflammatory signal, improving circulation, removing excess fluids, and reducing the sympathetic nervous system response.
  • Trigger point release: Trigger point release involves applying sustained pressure to the muscle’s trigger point to reduce tension and pain. This is often helpful in treating piriformis syndrome.
  • Improved flexibility: Improved blood flow to the area can also increase the range of motion and flexibility.
  • Relaxation: Massage helps relax the piriformis muscle, which may decrease spasms and reduce pain. It also promotes the release of endorphins, which help fight pain.

Professional Piriformis Syndrome Massage

A professional massage for piriformis syndrome is one way to incorporate massage into your treatment plan. There are a few things to consider when having a professional massage for piriformis syndrome, such as:

What to Expect During a Massage Session

When you have a professional massage, you can expect to start with an initial consultation. The therapist may ask questions about pain, duration of symptoms, and severity. There are different styles and techniques of massage.

During your consultation, the therapist will confirm the technique and style of massage needed and preferred. Your therapist may also develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It is helpful to understand that piriformis syndrome may not resolve in just one massage session.

Your treatment plan includes many specific types of massages and the frequency of appointments.

Benefits of Professional Massage

There are several benefits to using professional massage. For example, a professional massage therapist can provide deeper tissue work than you can. Plus, a therapist can try different styles of massage and tissue work, including:

  • Soft tissue release
  • Deep tissue massage
  • And trigger point therapy.

A professional massage therapist can also offer guidance on massage techniques you can implement at home between appointments. Additionally, massage can address other underlying issues contributing to pain.

Finding a Qualified Massage Therapist

Look for a massage therapist with a recognized certification. Individual state requirements for certification may differ.

Typically, a massage therapist should be either a “licensed massage therapist (LMT)” or a “certified massage therapist (CMT).” A CMT requires certification from a non-governmental organization, while an LMT requires individuals to satisfy their state regulations and pass an exam.

One way to find a qualified massage therapist is through the American Massage Therapy Association website. Before scheduling an appointment, ask the therapist if they have experience with piriformis syndrome to determine additional expertise.

Self-Massage Techniques for Piriformis Syndrome

One goal of self-massage is to relax the piriformis muscle, which will help reduce sciatic nerve pain and pressure. It is helpful to practice self-massage so you can use different techniques between professional massages. This will help promote continued progress and help you manage symptoms.

There are various techniques you can use for piriformis massage, such as the following:

A woman using a foam roller on her back

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling targeting the glutes and piriformis area can help reduce tension and pain. If you want a deeper massage, select a roller with a textured surface.

To use a form roller for piriformis syndrome:

  • Lie on your back on a firm surface
  • Keep your core tight and lift your hips slightly into a bridge
  • Place the roller under your glutes
  • Roll up and down between your glute and lower back. Focus on the area that feels tight or sore.
  • Roll back and forth for about a minute. Take a break and repeat a few times.
Various massage balls on a yoga mat

Massage Ball

A massage ball provides trigger point release on the glutes and hips. It allows you to put pressure on a specific painful area, which may help reduce tension and increase blood flow to the area. You can use a tennis ball if you do not have a massage ball.

To use a massage ball for piriformis syndrome:

  • Sit on a chair with the massage ball under your glute.
  • Lean into the ball and shift your weight to apply pressure on the glute.
  • Once you find a tender spot, keep pressure on the area for about 30 seconds to a minute.

Using either a foam roller or massage ball may cause slight discomfort once you find the tender spots. The pain should not be intolerable. If you feel significant pain, stop the foam rolling or massage.

Ice cubes on a surface

Ice Massage

An ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation. You can use an ice massage application or a small frozen water bottle.

To perform an ice massage:

  • Let on your back and extend your leg on the painful side.
  • Place your ice massager on your painful glute.
  • Apply mild to moderate pressure to the area in a circular motion.
  • Keep the massage to about five minutes to avoid an ice burn.
  • Remove the ice and allow your skin to return to its average temperature.
  • You can repeat an ice massage up to five days a day.

Important Considerations

When performing self-massage, it is important to consider a few things. For instance, do not apply too much pressure. Listen to your body and avoid massage techniques that cause pain.

Additional Tips for Piriformis Syndrome Relief

There are also some additional things to remember when treating piriformis syndrome. Consider the following:


Stretching that targets the piriformis and surrounding muscles can help relieve tension and pressure on the sciatic nerve. In turn, this can help reduce pain.

Several practical stretching exercises, such as those linked above, are beneficial for piriformis syndrome.

  • Supine piriformis stretch
  • Knee to chest piriformis stretch
  • 4-point piriformis stretch

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises can improve hip stability and core strength, which may prevent future episodes of piriformis syndrome. Strengthening exercises for piriformis syndrome may include:

  • Bridge
  • Straight leg raise
  • Bird dog
  • Clamshells

Lifestyle Modifications

This may include avoiding activities that may lead to pain or trigger symptoms. It is also vital to maintain good posture, which promotes proper spinal alignment. Good ergonomics when sitting at a desk and an adequate sleep position for your back are also helpful. If you have a desk job, avoiding prolonged sitting is essential to prevent further injury.


Certain tools help treat piriformis syndrome. Tools you may want to consider using include:

A TENS unit is available without a prescription. The tools above are available at drug stores, sporting goods stores, and online.

When to See a Doctor

In many cases, piriformis treatment is treatable at home and resolves within a few weeks. But there are times when it is best to see a doctor. Consider seeing a doctor in the following instances:

  • Persistent pain
  • Worsening symptoms, such as increased numbness or tingling
  • Recurrent episodes of piriformis syndrome

A TENS unit is available without a prescription. The tools above are available at drug stores, sporting goods stores, and online.


Both professional and self-massage are beneficial treatments for piriformis syndrome. Massage can reduce pain and inflammation. It also improves the range of motion and flexibility.

There are different techniques and types of piriformis muscle massages, such as trigger point therapy and deep tissue massage. Self-massage, including ice massage, foam rolling, and a massage ball, can also help.

If you have continued symptoms after trying various home treatments, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.

About the Author

MaryAnn DePietro CRT

MaryAnn DePietro CRT is a licensed respiratory therapist with over 15 years of clinical experience in critical care, emergency medicine, and pulmonary rehabilitation. She is also an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and holds specialty certifications in orthopedics, senior fitness, and weight management. MaryAnn has a degree in Rehabilitation from Penn State University and a degree in respiratory therapy.

In addition to her clinical experience, she has written extensively about all things medical, as well as health, fitness, and aging for various websites, magazines, and newspapers.

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