A human donor (cadaveric) observation study of three needle placements in the piriformis muscle

J Man Manip Ther. 2023 Apr;31(2):98-104. doi: 10.1080/10669817.2022.2082638. Epub 2022 Jun 5.


Objective: To compare the safety and accuracy of three dry needling locations in the piriformis muscle using human donors.

Design: Observational dissection study of embalmed human donors.

Methods: A licensed physical therapist of 17 years clinical experience and 5 years teaching dry needling placed three needles in a medial, midpoint, and lateral location of 14 piriformis muscles of seven embalmed human donors. Block dissection allowed for observation of tissues the needles traversed and recording of the structures that the needles pierced.

Results: The lateral needle pierced piriformis in 3/14 trials, and contacted sciatic nerve in 0/14 trials. The medial needle pierced both piriformis and sciatic nerve in 11/14 trials. The midpoint needle pierced the piriformis in 11/14 trials, and contacted sciatic nerve in 3/14 trials. Fisher's Exact test (p < 0.001) found a nonrandom association between dry needle placement, and dry needle contact.

Conclusions: When dry needling the piriformis, a lateral approach can avoid the sciatic nerve, but cannot accurately pierce the piriformis tendon. Furthermore, while a midpoint and medial approach finds the piriformis muscle with the same accuracy, the midpoint location avoided the sciatic nerve more often.

Keywords: Piriformis muscle; cadaver; dry needling; human donor; myofascial pain; piriformis syndrome.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Buttocks
  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal*
  • Sciatic Nerve* / anatomy & histology
  • Tendons

Grants and funding

The author(s) reported there is no funding associated with the work featured in this article.