Dr. Gary Tanchak, D.C.

Expert Board Member

Education: Palmer College of Chiropractic, Monmouth University

Expertise: Chiropractic, Manual Therapy, Kinesiology


Bio:
Gary Tanchak, DC is a Chiropractor that takes a comprehensive approach to spinal and extremity injuries. He takes the entire body’s biomechanics as well as lifestyle into account when addressing injury, in order to help rid the patient of their pain and keep it from coming back in the future. Dr. Tanchak addresses patient’s injuries through a combination of passive modalities, such as spinal and extremity manipulations, Active Release Technique, and non-surgical spinal decompression.

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best massage gun for piriformis syndrome

Best Massage Gun for Piriformis Syndrome – Are Percussion Massagers Good To Treat Piriformis?

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Have you been dealing with pain in the back of your leg, or maybe told by your doctor that you have piriformis syndrome? Like many of our readers, you might be wondering “are massage guns good for piriformis syndrome?

We think they are, but there are some important details you’ll want to know.

In this article, we break down what piriformis syndrome is, how to safely use your massage gun for this condition, and what we think is the best massage gun for piriformis syndrome.

Okay, let’s get going.



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Important Notes

Massage guns are new technology, and research is still needed to confirm many of the proposed uses for these devices. However, rest assured that we are massage gun experts with extensive experience, and we’re using the best available resources to keep you educated and informed.

This article is written by a licensed physiotherapist, Dr. Alex Stone, DPT. Consult your medical doctor before using any advice found in this article.


What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Let’s start with some basic definitions. Piriformis syndrome is defined as pain along the buttock and back of the thigh due to increased pressure on the sciatic nerve (1).

Your sciatic nerve is a very large, hose-like structure that sends signals to and from your legs for movement and sensation. 

Piriformis syndrome was originally named so because the piriformis muscle was the only muscle thought to place pressure on the sciatic nerve.

However, the condition is now being called deep gluteal syndrome because we now understand that many structures may add pressure to the sciatic nerve (2).

There are many treatments available for piriformis syndrome or deep gluteal syndrome, including a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises, prescription medications, and even surgical options to increase space around the sciatic nerve where it passes through the hip (3).

Massage guns are becoming increasingly common to help manage a variety of conditions, and they might be helpful for treating piriformis syndrome.


Are Massage Guns Good for Piriformis Syndrome?

Because a large amount of piriformis syndrome is caused by increased tension in the hip and pressure on the sciatic nerve, massage is a very common treatment that can be effective at improving symptoms.

The piriformis itself is a very small, triangular muscle that’s hard to reach. For this reason, direct massage can be challenging without the help of a professional (licensed massage therapist, physiotherapist, etc.).

Practically speaking, it’s more reasonable to go after the big muscles which are easier to reach at home.

are massage guns good for piriformis syndrome
Massage is a prevalent treatment for improving piriformis syndrome.

Many of the muscles in your thigh which cover and surround the sciatic nerve play a role in piriformis syndrome, and will benefit from deep tissue massage.

Because these muscles are very large and difficult to massage with your hands, fatigue could set in quickly. This is where massage guns can be very helpful in managing your piriformis syndrome.

It’s especially important to use caution and prioritize safety when using a massage gun, so we’ve included some important tips below.

We’ve also put together our list of the best devices for getting a good deep tissue massage in your thighs while dealing with piriformis syndrome.


How to Massage Piriformis with Massage Gun – Tips and Tricks

When using your massage gun for piriformis syndrome there are a few things to focus on.

Location

For best results, you’ll want to focus on the piriformis muscle and the muscles immediately surrounding it (glute muscles, hamstrings, etc.). It can be especially helpful to look for tender spots in your thigh and buttock distant from your piriformis, then slowly work towards your inner buttock.

It’s important to avoid massaging directly over the sciatic nerve with too much pressure, as this might increase sensitivity and increase symptoms in your buttock or thigh.

Pressure

Always start with very light pressure and focus on keeping things pain-free. It can be helpful to move the massage gun head in small circles to help distribute the pressure evenly around sensitive areas.

As you become more comfortable, you should slowly increase pressure within a comfortable range. If you begin to feel sharp or shooting pain in your buttock or thigh, stop immediately.

Attachment

In most cases we recommend starting with softer, broader attachments like the standard ball or (if your massage gun has one) cushioned head, especially if you’re using a high-amplitude device. Depending on your response, you can work toward a firmer attachment like the flat head.

Larger individuals may need to start with firmer attachments to work through extra soft tissue.


Best Massage Gun for Piriformis Syndrome

Choosing the best massage gun for piriformis syndrome can be challenging, so for your convenience, we’ve put together a list of our recommended massage guns, with a detailed explanation on why we think they are perfect for the job.


Ekrin B37 – Our Top Recommendation

ekrin b37 features

This Ekrin B37 isn’t just one of our favorite massage guns for piriformis syndrome, but one of our favorite all-around massage guns to date.

Boston-based Ekrin has developed a device with the perfect balance of power and speed, meaning it’s comfortable for all occasions.

Some devices like Theragun are highly punchy, but don’t hit very fast – this means less benefit from highly effective vibrations. Other devices percuss very quickly, but only offer surface-level hits – this means that you won’t penetrate very far into the muscle tissue.

The B37 has lots of stall force, 56lbs. to be exact, which can give a serious massage to the big muscles of the thigh and hip.

A higher stall force means that more pressure can be applied manually while performing massage to increase penetration, which allows you to get more done with the 12mm device amplitude.

Even on its lowest gear, the B37 still produces 28lbs. of stall force, which most devices won’t hit even in their highest gear.

Ekrin designed this gun with ergonomics in mind, using an angled handle to improve comfort and maneuverability. The B37 weighs in at 2.2lbs. and doesn’t compromise on build quality, feeling premium in the hand during use.

The device comes with 4 varied attachments and they are all useful for different areas of the body. We think this is a sweet spot for attachments, as many others are unnecessary and might clutter your storage space.

The device comes stock with a Samsung battery, lasting up to 8 hours on a single charge – this is impressive for the industry.

It’s also backed with a lifetime warranty from Ekrin, and returns are hassle-free.

The Ekrin B37 sells for $229.99, but you can use our MGA20 coupon code to save 20%, bringing the price down to $183.99. Get it here at Ekrinathletics.com.

TIP Want to learn more? Read our hands-on Ekrin B37 review.


Achedaway Pro – High-Amplitude Option

Achedaway Pro features

The Achedaway Pro is another serious contender for your piriformis syndrome, and one of the most comparable Theragun alternatives we’ve found to date.

This device is slightly bigger and more expensive than the B37, but it offers a lot of value to demanding users with bigger thigh muscles, and those who don’t mind a more punchy massage around their hips.

Specifically, you’re getting 60lbs. of stall force and a confirmed 16mm of amplitude from this device, which compares to the industry-leading specs of high-end Theragun models.

The Achedaway Pro revs at 1700-2800 RPM (also confirmed it in our tests). This is slower than the B37, but this is a common trade for higher amplitude and still lines up with Theragun’s offerings.

One of our favorite features of the Achedaway Pro is its attachments:

In addition to great variety, the flat head and bullet attachments are aluminum-coated and feel great on the skin.

Even better, the device comes with a soft half ball attachment that’s designed for sensitive areas, which is hard to find with most devices.

The device is surprisingly quiet given its high amplitude and stall force, and it comes with a 2-year warranty.

This isn’t as good as Ekrin’s lifetime warranty, but it’s much better than the warranty you’ll get with a Hypervolt or Theragun (excluding Theragun PRO, which costs $599).

The Achedaway Pro retails for $299, but you can use our MGA25 coupon code to save $25, bringing the price down to $274. Get in Achedaway’s store.

TIP Check out our full Achedaway Pro Review for further details and photos.


Bob and Brad X6 Pro – Also Good

bob and brad x6 pro features

This device comes from the famous YouTube duo Bob and Brad, and it’s also a reasonable choice for managing your piriformis syndrome.

In our opinion, the X6 is the only Bob and Brad device suitable for this job, since many of the other Bob & Brad devices are lacking power and amplitude (like C2 and T2).

This device delivers a stall force of up to 44 lbs. – not as much as the Achedaway Pro or Ekrin B37, but enough to work on the larger muscles of the hips and thighs.

It comes with an amplitude of 10.5mm, putting it in similar same league as Ekrin’s top device. But technical specs aside, we chose this device because of one key feature: the all-steel attachment.

The all-steel attachment is specifically useful for hot and cold therapy – stick it in the freezer before use to enjoy a few minutes of cold massage, or leave it in hot water before use to add some heat to your massage. This is a very simple idea, but unique enough to keep us coming back.

The X6 PRO also comes with an air-cushioned flat head attachment, which comes standard with very few other massage gun brands.

Overall, the attachments that come with this device make it a tempting offer.

The ergonomics of this device are nothing special, lacking an angled handle or adjustable neck to make use more comfortable.

The device also comes with a limited warranty of 1 year, making brands like Ekrin more appealing in our opinion.

Criticisms aside, for the price of about $149, the value of the Bob and Brad X6 PRO offer is pretty good. Check the current price at Amazon.

TIP Read our full Bob and Brad X6 Pro review for more information.


Our last massage gun recommendation is a small device that deserves recognition.

Ekrin Bantam – Best Mini Massage Gun for Piriformis Syndrome

ekrin bantam features

The Ekrin Bantam is our top recommendation for those of us who need something ultra-portable. In fact, it’s the most powerful mini massage gun to date that we know of.

This device is tiny, but packs a serious stall force of up to 35lbs – not as much as the Ekrin B37, but not too far off from the Bob and Brad X6 PRO (considering this device is miniature, we think that’s super impressive).

Even better, it boasts almost 10mm of amplitude, which puts it in competition with the full-sized X6 PRO device.

The Bantam mini comes with 4 attachments, including a standard flat head, bullet heat (for going deep), and an exceptionally soft ball attachment for managing larger or more sensitive areas with ease.

This device comes standard with a carrying case and a lifetime warranty, which we’re very impressed with.

You can get the Bantam mini for $149, but the price comes down to only $119 with our MGA20 coupon code.

TIP For more details and photos of this device, refer to our full Ekrin Bantam review.


Theragun for Piriformis Syndrome

Theragun is considered royalty in the massage gun world, and most of their devices are suited for just about any job

theragun 4th gen massage guns
All four 4th generation Theragun massage guns side by side.

Every full-sized Theragun device (Prime, Elite, and PRO) packs 16mm of amplitude, which is the best in the business, matched only by the mighty Achedaway Pro.

Their larger amplitude means that the massage is more aggressive or “punchy” compared to other brands, but for larger body areas on larger users, this can be a big advantage.

So what’s the best Theragun for piriformis syndrome?


Theargun Elite

With 40 lbs. of stall force, we think that the Theragun Elite is the best choice for managing piriformis syndrome.


Theragun Prime

That said, the Theragun Prime should also get the job done for most users with a stall force of 30 lbs.


Theragun PRO

We think that the 60lb stall force of the Theragun PRO is going to be overkill for most users in this case (it’s also quite bulky and heavy).


All full-sized Theragun devices come with a nice set of attachments. In our opinion, the dampener attachment is the best choice for the job from Theragun, but you might also want to experiment with the cone and wedge attachments at some point.

PRO TIP If the area you’re massaging is highly sensitive, we recommend getting the extra SuperSoft attachment from Theragun – for $30 it might be one of the best reasons to use a Theragun device against piriformis syndrome. 

Common complaints for these devices are that they’re loud and rough sounding, they don’t come as well-equipped as many of their competitor devices, and their warranty is short (2 years for PRO, 1 year for all other devices).

The biggest problem is, of course, their cost. For the price of one Theragun Elite you could purchase both of our top choices (Ekrin B37 and Achedaway Pro). That’s pretty hard to justify in our opinion.

RELATED REVIEWS:


Best Massage Gun for Piriformis Syndrome – The Bottom Line

So, are massage guns good for piriformis syndrome? We definitely think yes! 

As for choosing the best massage gun for piriformis syndrome – we hope that you’ve got your answer!

While we mention our favorite devices above, we want to remind you that the best choice for the job will be a massage gun with a nice balance between amplitude, speed, and stall force.

Other important features to consider are the attachments that come with your massage gun, device design, warranty, and overall cost.

For this reason, we’ve decided to feature Ekrin B37 as our top pick, followed by the high-amplitude Achedaway Pro. If you have the budget, you can also think of getting a Theragun, but the value for the money is probably better with the former two devices.

Do you have experience using your massage gun for piriformis syndrome? Let us know in the comments below!


References
  1. Hicks BL, Lam JC, Varacallo M. Piriformis Syndrome. [Updated 2022 Apr 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448172/
  2. Park JW, Lee YK, Lee YJ, Shin S, Kang Y, Koo KH. Deep gluteal syndrome as a cause of posterior hip pain and sciatica-like pain. Bone Joint J. 2020 May;102-B(5):556-567. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.102B5.BJJ-2019-1212.R1. PMID: 32349600.
    Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32349600/
  3. Hernando, M. et al. (2015). Deep gluteal syndrome: anatomy, imaging, and management of sciatic nerve entrapments in the subgluteal space. Skeletal radiology, 44(7), 919–934. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00256-015-2124-6
    Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25739706/
Dr. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS
Alex Stone

Alex Stone is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA). He currently practices orthopedics in Bellevue Washington and manages an online health coaching business via social media (@dr.alexstone) and the website (trainwithfx.com). He is passionate about health science education and general health/wellness optimization.
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