Mild to severe pain in a set of muscles known as the gluteus maximus could signify that you are experiencing the symptoms of an attack of sciatia. The pain that you feel is usually on one side or the other of your backside (or buttocks), possibly radiating down your leg. You need to treat the symptoms, but you also need to find and treat the cause of those symptoms.
The gluteus maximus is the largest of three sets of muscles that control both sides of the buttocks. The word gluteus comes from the Greek word gloutos, which means buttocks. These muscles include the gluteus maximus (the largest, strongest and outermost of these muscles), the gluteus medius (the middle muscle) and the gluteus minimus (the smallest and innermost).
The gluteus maximus muscle works to extend and to outwardly rotate the hip. It also helps the upper body to extend (bow and bend) at the trunk. You cannot fully sit, stand, walk or be ambulatory without the correspondingly full use of your gluteus maximus and the other gluteal muscles.
Sciatica is both a symptom and an indication of an underlying cause. Also known as sciatic neuritis, sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve--a long nerve that runs from the buttock down through the back of the thigh and calf, into the foot--becomes compressed or inflamed. This inflammation causes sciatic pain, which you can feel in the gluteus maximus muscle, though it actually occurs in the nerve itself.
Sciatic pain can be mild to excruciating, and you can feel it all along the length of the nerve. When the pain is centred in the gluteus maximus, it compromises sitting, standing, walking and all types of lower-body movement. Even while resting, you can feel sciatic pain in the gluteus maximus.
Sciatica has a number of causes, and you need to consider all possibilities. Causes can include: spinal disc herniation, spinal stenosis and piriformis syndrome (or what is known as soft-tissue trigger points).
Piriformis syndrome, one likely cause of sciatica, results from low blood flow to the nerve. Piriformis can occur because of injury or chronic muscle contraction, pregnancy, work-related injury and poor posture. The stress of having to sit for a long time, as when driving a car or travelling on long plane flights, can also contribute.
The good news about sciatic pain is that it will eventually go away, particularly if you recognise the underlying issue and deal with it properly. You must treat both the cause and symptoms, however, and take action to ease the pain, which can be constant and debilitating.
Initial treatment can include anti-inflammatory or acetaminophen medications, narcotics (if pain is severe) and steroid injections. Alternately apply ice packs to help reduce the nerve inflammation and moist heat to ease the muscle spasms that sciatica can cause.
You doctor may recommend non-surgical spinal compression, and if the cause is a herniated disc, she may suggest surgery. The good news, however, is that 90 per cent of disc prolapses require no surgery.
After the initial attack of sciatic pain has eased, you can explore other treatments to help you become fully functioning again and to keep the condition from returning. Treatments include physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, massage therapy and acupuncture.