Are you one of those long distance runners who regularly suffer from piriformis pain and discomfort? If so, bedtime can be a terrible time, as the effects of the condition can keep sufferers awake at night, even when they desperately want to sleep.
Sometimes, the situation can get so bad that you wake up tired and cranky because you enjoyed little to no sleep the previous night. If you are struggling to sleep due to the symptoms of this tricky condition, it is only logical that you look for a solution.
How do you sleep with Piriformis Syndrome?
The best way to sleep with piriformis syndrome is to lie on your side, with pillows between your knees to relieve tension in the piriformis muscles. Regular deep tissue massage and exercises to strengthen the hip muscles can also keep the discomfort associated with the condition at bay.
What is the connection between running and the piriformis muscles?
The piriformis is a small pear-shaped muscle located at the back of the hip. It protects the femoral neck bone from bending while walking or running to prevent hip injuries.
Despite the protective nature of the piriformis for the femoral neck bone, it can also be a common source of problems. This is due to its proximity to the sciatic nerve, a sensitive nerve that runs from the lower back, through the hips, into the buttocks and down each leg.
In a small percentage of the population, the sciatic nerve runs directly through the piriformis muscles.
Running for long periods of time can overload the muscles surrounding the piriformis, causing irritation, pain, and resulting physical effects. High mileage running can also force the piriformis muscles to compress the sciatic nerve, which can lead to pain due to the strength of the muscles.
The result is unimaginable discomfort for the runner.
10 Tips on How To Sleep With Piriformis Syndrome
To sleep comfortably with piriformis syndrome, many conscious decisions must be made and followed. Here are a few techniques that can provide some sleep comfort to runners who suffer from this condition on a regular basis.
1. Side Sleeping With a Pillow Between The Knees
The best position for comfortable nights with piriformis syndrome is to lie on your side and stuff a pillow between your knees. In this position, the tension in the affected muscles can relax, reducing discomfort and allowing for a good night’s rest.
Many runners with this condition are tempted to sit or lie down with their legs bent so that the foot of the affected side touches the other knee. While this position can provide short-term relief, the fact that it can tighten the piriformis muscles means that running can become more uncomfortable.
2. Sit With Straight Knees
Sitting with your knees straight is another proven technique that can relieve the symptoms associated with piriformis syndrome. Sure, you might think that a seated position has no direct correlation to sleeping comfortably at night despite the symptoms of the condition.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many runners with high mileage and piriformis syndrome sit with their legs bent. The resulting rotation of the hips from this position can reduce tension on the sciatic nerve, providing some comfort.
Unfortunately, this can lead to excessive tension on the piriformis muscles, which makes for a higher level of discomfort during and after each run. In addition, improper seating position can be extremely difficult to correct, often taking months even for dedicated runners.
3. Short Stretches
Stretching the piriformis is a proven technique that can provide runners with quick relief before bed. These stretches can be done at any time of day, but most runners say it’s more rewarding to schedule them near bedtime.
Performing piriformis stretches can relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in significant pain relief. Before stretching, it is advisable to massage the piriformis with a softball or similar object to soften the area in question so that the stretches can have maximum effect.
4. Deep Tissue Massage
Are you tired of counting sheep in bed due to the symptoms associated with piriformis syndrome? If so, a deep tissue massage may be helpful. These massages can focus on realigning the deepest layers of the piriformis muscles and connective tissue.
Unlike other types of massages, the massage therapist focuses on deeper and slower strokes with concentrated pressure on the area of concern. This makes it easy to reach the sub-layers of the muscles and connective tissues. This results in significant loosening of all stiff muscles for amazing relief.
Experts recommend focusing on the sacrum and the outer parts of the hip to reduce the risk of aggravating the sciatic nerve. Sometimes you may feel tingling or numbness in your legs during the massage. This could be an indication that the masseuse is hitting the sciatic nerve and thus immediate adjustments need to be made.
5. Hip Muscle Exercises
Many sports scientists believe that weaknesses in the hip muscles can be a major cause of piriformis syndrome. This is because exercises to strengthen the hip muscles have been shown to speed recovery from the condition.
These strengthening exercises typically involve routines that contract the hip muscles. Studies have shown impressive results typically alleviating the discomfort associated with the syndrome when these muscle strengthening exercises are performed over a period of time
The good news is that the majority of patients who undergo these exercises report 100 percent pain relief that can last for several years without any trace of relapse.
Therefore, talking to your surgeon for recommendations on the right hip strengthening exercises can be a step in the right direction. As long as you do the exercises as prescribed, the chances of pain-free nights are great.
6. Cold Pack
Have you been tossing and turning at night because of piriformis syndrome symptoms? Why not just put an ice pack on the affected area?
The numbing effect of ice on pain is no secret, regardless of your background. Many of us grew up in households where ice was commonly applied to everything from fractures to swelling and other forms of physical trauma.
Remember that ice should not be applied to the affected area for more than 20 minutes at a time, every hour or so. Also, avoid applying bare ice to the piriformis region to avoid the risk of ice burns.
Additionally, we recommend wrapping a towel around the ice pack before each application.
Amazon’s FlexiKold Gel Ice Pack is my go-to for relieving pain and swelling after injury or surgery. It stays cool longer compared to competing products. It is highly rated and highly recommended for anyone.
7. Heating Pad
Thermotherapy can be an effective way to get immediate relief for many types of ailments and the symptoms of piriformis syndrome are no different. Placing a heating pad on the affected area for just 15 minutes before bed can have transformative effects on the body.
It is important to set the heating pad to low heat to avoid the risk of burning the pain area. Be sure to choose a model with an automatic shut-off feature if you prefer to fall asleep while the heating pad is still touching your body.
The MIGHTY BLISS Large Electric Heating Pad from Amazon provides amazing heat therapy for pain relief. I love the fact that it penetrates my aching muscles within seconds to bring instant relief from discomfort. It features plush microfiber material that feels comfortable against the skin, and each purchase comes with a Lifetime Replacement Guarantee.
Meditation is one of the most popular pain management techniques in the world. From chronic pain sufferers to others experiencing temporary discomfort from an injury, the technique can be useful in many ways.
In particular, mindfulness meditation, where the practitioner focuses on a specific sense such as their breath while allowing fleeting thoughts, has been shown to offer long-term pain relief.
This is because meditation strengthens the pain-processing regions of the brain, which can lead to lower pain intensity. Specifically, meditation at night can lower pain perception in the piriformis region, leading to a quick drift off and a night of blissful sleep.
I personally use the Body Quiet Meditation Cushion with Accupressure For Stress Relief from Amazon for meditation and yoga exercises. The seat is high for excellent alignment of the hips and spine for proper posture. This means I don’t put pressure on my back, knees, and ankles, resulting in superior comfort and longer, pain-free meditation and yoga sessions. I highly recommend it.
Listening to good music at night can be top notch therapeutic for anyone suffering from severe pain. If you live in a dorm or noisy apartment, listening to your favorite songs with noise-canceling headphones can be a smart distraction from the pain and discomfort.
Low-tempo music has been shown to have the best impact on sleep, but you can also listen to other tracks that you find soothing. Apart from music, white sounds can also be a good source of mentally relaxing tunes for a restful sleep.
I personally use Cowin E8 Active Noise-Canceling Headphones to fall asleep in noisy environments. It has amazing technology that drowns out background noise so I can focus on listening to relaxing, pleasant sounds for a satisfying sleep.
10. Pain Patches
Pain patches can provide quick relief from the discomfort associated with piriformis syndrome. These patches usually have a unique, cooling formula that contains ingredients such as menthol.
Their advantage is that they can offer relief for the deep muscle pain that typically accompanies the condition. Some of the best runners and athletes in the world rely on pain patches to get them through the day and rest at night.
The best time to use a pain patch is at night, when you are a few hours from bedtime. The effects should last until morning, which can lead to superior sleep comforts, even for those who have always struggled with insomnia.
Amazon’s Salonpas Pain Relieving Patches can supercharge the sleep process by eliminating piriformis pain after long-distance runs. The pain relieving effect can be felt in seconds and is available at an affordable price.
Congratulations for reading this guide till the end. We have presented 10 smart techniques to sleep comfortably with piriformis syndrome. From performing short stretches of the affected area to sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees, it is possible to enjoy happy nights.
Calming methods such as meditation and listening to soft music can also work wonders if you are struggling with sleep issues due to the effects of piriformis syndrome.