For individuals that suffer with low back pain and sciatica, buttock pain is, quite literally, a pain in the backside. This article is all about why it occurs and my top tips to relieve buttock pain and bum muscle pain.
Aims of this post:
- To describe the common causes of bum muscle pain
- To talk all about piriformis syndrome and how it can cause sciatica
- To give you 7 great techniques for reducing bum muscle pain instantly!
Bum Muscle Pain
Why do we get buttock and bum muscle pain?
There are a number of answers to this question. In sciatica, buttock pain usually occurs when a nerve root in the spine is irritated. This causes pain along all or part of the course of that nerve.
This irritation can cause a pain in the backside that feels like bum muscle pain. So it’s not always your actual bum muscle that causes buttock pain.
The sciatic nerve runs from the back, into the buttock and all the way down the leg. Sometimes, pain in sciatica can be felt solely in the buttock rather than travelling all the way to the foot.
I had a patient once whose only symptom was a nagging pain right on the area where his buttock touches the seat. I initially thought he might have a problem with one of the structures in the buttock, like a piriformis injury or a hamstring tendon problem. However, none of my treatments for these problems were working.
It was only after he was referred for an MRI scan that we saw that his S1 nerve root in the spine was being compressed by a disc, and as a result, he was getting bum muscle pain.
If you wish to read more about what sciatica is, the symptoms to look out for and a guide to the conditions that cause sciatica, click HERE for my Ultimate Guide to Sciatica.
How to work out if your bum muscle pain is caused by your buttock, or your back
Not everything is always as it seems with bum muscle pain. It could be caused by either your buttock region, or it could be radiating down from your back.
One of the primary signs that your bum muscle pain is caused by your back is that you may notice that movements of your back, like bending forward, may aggravate your bum muscle pain.
Equally, you might be able to relieve buttock pain by performing a movement in the opposite direction.
If you are also suffering with back pain, this can indicate that the problems are one and the same, although this is not always the case.
Bum muscle pain after sitting for any length of time can be caused by both back and buttock problems, so this sign doesn’t really help us.
If going up and down stairs really aggravates your bum muscle pain, this could indicate that the problem arises in the gluteals (the actual bum muscles) rather than the back, due to the stabilising action of this muscle group on the pelvis.
How to relieve buttock pain?
There are a number of things that we can do to relieve buttock pain, no matter the cause. Not all of these will work for you, but through trial and error hopefully there will be one thing in this list that you can use to relieve buttock pain.
Applying heat to the area can help to loosen muscles if the cause of your pain is tension and tightness in the buttock area. A wheat cushion can be a great investment if you haven’t got one already. You simply stick it in the microwave and then apply it to the problem area for 15 minutes.
An example of a good wheat cushion would be this one here:
Zhu-Zhu Unscented Body Wrap – Microwavable Wheat Bag – Navy Fleece Heat Therapy Hot Pack – Microwave Heated Soothing Wheat Bags
If heat didn’t work for you, try cold instead. Ice packs and bags of peas provide effective pain relief to sore areas by altering the way that pain signals are felt by the brain. Ice is “nature’s pain killer”!
If your sciatic nerve is inflamed around the buttock, then ice can also help to reduce this inflammation by temporarily shutting down the blood vessels around that area, which will have the effect of both bringing down any irritation and relieving buttock pain at the same time.
There are some great seated cushion products available to relieve buttock pain. These work really well for problems like piriformis syndrome, and take the pressure off the buttock enough to avoid aggravating the area when sitting for long periods.
They can also help to raise you up in your seat, helping overall posture which will reduce pressure on a disc bulge.
They are also great for car journeys, as driving can often be the worst experience for someone suffering with bum muscle pain from sciatica.
A great example of a seated cushion to buy is the one below:
For more products that can help with sciatica relief, you can try this article here on products for immediate pain relief.
Try these stretches to relieve buttock pain
The following stretches are great for tight buttocks and the piriformis muscle, if they are the source of your bum muscle pain. Depending on the type of posture we adopt when we walk, it is possible for different areas of the legs to get tight. If you have a “flat back” posture, where you don’t have much of a curve at the base of your spine, it is likely that your buttocks will get tight over time.
Equally, piriformis syndrome is often caused by an overly tight piriformis muscle, usually as a result of too much sitting or a problem with your gait when walking.
These stretches can correct both of these issues and immediately relieve buttock pain in some individuals.
Basic Gluteal Stretch
Start off by sitting either on the floor or on your bed, supported by your hands or sitting up against something firm.
Cross the leg that is to be stretched over the other leg. Plant the foot of the stretched leg on the mat/bed as shown. Using your opposite arm, pull the knee of the stretched leg across, as if to move it towards the opposite shoulder.
To increase this stretch further, rotate your body slightly towards the stretched leg, as shown in the picture.
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat up to 3 times.
2. Advanced Gluteal Stretch
Start by facing a firm surface like a bed or sofa. Lift the leg that is to be stretched up and turned outwards so your shin bone crosses your body. Place the leg on the surface. Lean forward with your hips and body to increase the stretch, as shown.
Hold for 30 seconds, up to 3 times.
3. Piriformis Stretch
Start by lying flat on your back either on a mat or on your bed with your knees bent halfway.
Cross the leg to be stretched over the other leg so that your lower leg is supported on the knee of the other leg.
Reach through the gap between the legs and grab your resting leg. Pull up towards your chest as shown.
Hold for 30 seconds, repeat up to 3 times.
If these stretches aren’t relieving your symptoms, try “nerve flossing”. I spoke about it in this article HERE.
Trigger Point Therapy
When you have a muscular area that is extremely tight and sore, sometimes the cause of this can be “trigger points”, which are tight areas in the muscle that simply won’t relax. They can cause bum muscle pain not only directly over the buttock, but the pain can also refer to other parts of the body nearby.
If when you press around the painful area, you can feel hard “knots” within the muscle that are really uncomfortable, it is likely that you are suffering to some degree from trigger points.
Below are some of the key areas that seem to be affected by trigger points around the buttocks, and as a result can give rise to bum muscle pain.
The reason that applying pressure to trigger points can help is two-fold; the direct pressure can starve the area of oxygen from the blood, which forces it to relax.
The other way in which this type of therapy can relieve buttock pain is through something called “neuromodulation” which is where a firm pressure can change the way the nerves react to pain in that area.
You should always consult your doctor before attempting any trigger point therapy yourself.
These two places are often exactly where it hurts when you press around the painful area! They should be your target points for any trigger point therapy.
Using a firm ball, you can apply pressure to these areas by rolling your body weight over the ball when it is pressed into either a wall or a mat on the floor, as shown:
Ideally you want a really firm ball, like a hockey ball if you have one. There are also purpose-built trigger point therapy balls you can purchase which are designed for this task so you can be sure they are sturdy enough to handle your body weight and a real pummeling!
The best one I could find on the market is the one below:
Although extremely frustrating, there are measures that you can take to relieve buttock pain. Usually, stretching, hot/cold treatment and taking the necessary measures in your lifestyle like sitting aids can really help.
Your usual sciatica exercises and treatment should also directly relieve buttock pain, so if they aren’t working then definitely speak to your healthcare provider for more information.
If you know of someone close to you that suffers with bum muscle pain, please do refer them to this page so they can read the advice within, too. I hope the advice here helps you with your buttock pain like it has helped some of my other clients!
As always, thanks for reading.