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June 29, 2021
The piriformis muscle can be a real pain in the butt. The piriformis muscle enables us to walk, one of the most important aspects of daily life. Unfortunately, many people can suffer from piriformis pain with some unlucky enough to suffer from piriformis syndrome at some point in their lives. In this article we will go over 19 best piriformis stretches and exercises that will help to keep your muscles loose and pain free. If you are a runner or athlete, desk jockey or couch potato then you should continue reading to learn some simple piriformis stretches and exercises that can be done in the comfort of your house.
The piriformis muscle is located in the gluteal region underneath the gluteus maximus. This flat pyramidal shaped muscle is one of the six muscles of the lateral rotator group. The name piriformis is derived from Latin, meaning “pear shaped”. The piriformis muscle starts from the front part of the sacrum (part of the lower spine). It is attached to the second third and fourth sacral vertebra and from there it’s connected to the upper surface of the thigh bones.
The piriformis is responsible for laterally rotating the femur during hip extension. To get an idea of this movement, while sitting, lift one leg and cross it over the other so that your outside ankle is resting against the knee of the other leg. The second import function of the piriformis is the abduction the femur with hip flexion. This is an especially important for walking. This abduction of the thigh moves bodyweight to the opposite side of the foot being lifted. Without this we would fall down.
Although many people might not be familiar with the piriformis muscle, they might be familiar with sciatic pain. This is because the sciatic nerve runs beneath the piriformis or for some people the sciatic nerve will run through the muscle.
The following stretches and exercises are meant to help ease pain or soreness of tight piriformis muscles. These stretches can also be used to help alleviate pain caused by piriformis syndrome. None of these piriformis stretches or exercises require equipment although you can add mini bands to a few in order to increase difficulty.
If you feel any exaggerated pain from performing these movements you should stop what you’re doing. As always you should consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise or stretching routines
1. Standing Piriformis Stretch (0:35)
2. Standing Step Behind Piriformis Stretch (0:46)
3. Short Adductor Stretch (0:58)
4. Long Adductor Stretch (1:04)
5. Half Spinal Twist (1:15)
6. Supine Piriformis Stretch (1:23)
7. Lying Knees Side Stretch (1:35)
8. Knee to Chest (1:48)
9. Sleeping Pigeon (1:59)
10. Outer Hip Stretch (2:17)
11. Seated Piriformis Stretch (2:31)
12. Modified Pigeon Stretch (2:45)
13. Seated Piriformis Leg Cradle Stretch (2:58)
14. Side Lying TFL Stretch (3:07)
15. Lying Side Clamshell (3:20)
16. Glute Bridge With Feet Externally Rotated (3:43)
17. Prone Adductor Side Stretch (3:58)
18. Kickback (4:16)
19. Fire Hydrant (4:36)
Below we have pictures of all the piriformis exercises in the video above with how to's...
A tight piriformis muscle can lead to debilitating pain making life miserable. It’s important to keep this muscle limber. The benefits of piriformis stretches or piriformis exercises can really enhance quality of life for some. Here's a look at a few of the benefits of piriformis stretches.
Piriformis syndrome is when the piriformis muscle spasms causing irritation or compression to the sciatic nerve. The symptoms of piriformis syndrome may feel like sciatica but technically it is different as it isn’t a spinal problem.
Piriformis syndrome isn’t a very common health problem whereas piriformis pain is rather common. Every year less than 200,000 people are diagnosed with piriformis syndrome in the U.S.
Piriformis syndrome can be caused by injury, overuse or strain as the piriformis tightens, spasms or swells. Piriformis syndrome can also be caused by frequent long distance running or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
Piriformis syndrome pain can be triggered by running, sitting, climbing stairs or applying press directly on the muscle.
People can experience a number of symptoms if suffering from piriformis syndrome. Some of these symptoms can affect your buttocks, legs and even your feet. These symptoms include:
It’s important to distinguish whether or not the pain or soreness you’re experiencing is actually piriformis syndrome. We will cover two piriformis syndrome tests that can help to determine whether or not you’re suffering from piriformis syndrome. It’s important to note that these aren’t definitive tests and you should consult with a doctor to diagnose the exact issue.
If the patient is experiencing pain in the piriformis muscle or gluteal area then it’s probably piriformis muscle tightness not related to sciatic nerve. If there’s pain or numbness in the glutes that radiates down into posterior of the thigh then this usually indicates piriformis syndrome where the sciatic nerve is compressed or pinched by the piriformis muscle. To rule out cases of a herniated discs, other tests such as a MRI may be needed.
Related: More Mobility Tests
The treatment of piriformis syndrome is dependent on the severity of the condition. Common treatments include, exercise, physical therapy, stretching, steroidal medicine injections, pain medicine and occasionally surgery. Most home remedies like stretching, exercises and ice/heat will help to treat piriformis syndrome. If it becomes a chronic condition then medical professionals will determine if a more drastic treatment is needed.
What causes tight piriformis muscle?
A tight piriformis muscle can be the result of daily life activities such as frequent running or sitting at a desk day in and day out. Tight piriformis muscles can also be caused by overuse in sports or an accident/trauma to the muscle.
How Do I Relax my Piriformis?
There are a number of ways to relax a tight piriformis muscle including stretches, exercises, trigger point therapy and massage. A good starting point would be to complete some of the stretches that were covered above. These stretches can be done a few times a week, after sitting for a long time or after exercise.
How do you treat piriformis pain?
It’s important to diagnose if your piriformis pain is tightness or if you’re suffering from piriformis syndrome. Stretching, cold packs, myofascial release or trigger point therapy can treat most cases of piriformis pain. It’s important to note that strengthening the piriformis can help reduce the chances of experiencing piriformis pain in the future. Piriformis strengthening exercises target the glutes, lower back, hip flexors, adductors and abductors.
Can piriformis pain go away on its own?
Piriformis pain can go away on its own through rest and avoiding the activities that caused it to begin with. However, it’s better to treat this pain with simple piriformis stretches and exercises that we covered in this article.
How to Sleep with piriformis pain?
Piriformis pain can make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. The wrong mattress or sleeping position can make piriformis pain worse. Generally speaking, sleeping on your unaffected side with a pillow between the knees will be the most comfortable position to sleep in.
Does heat help ease piriformis pain?
Yes, both heat and ice can help lessen piriformis pain. You can apply a cold pack, ice or heating pad to the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try alternating between heat and cold to see what works best for you.
Piriformis stretches and exercises can save you from going through unnecessary piriformis pain or experiencing piriformis syndrome. If you’ve just finished a run or a long day at the office, take five minutes to stretch your piriformis muscles. We gave you a few of the best piriformis stretches you can do to avoid lower back, hip, glute or sciatic-like pain caused by tight piriformis muscles. Now it’s your turn to put them into practice.
More Resources on Stretching:
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