How To Stretch Piriformis Muscles

The piriformis muscle is a flat, pyramid-shaped muscle that lies just behind your hip joint. This muscle is situated deep inside the area of the buttocks and attaches to the outer side of your hips. It also runs across the sciatic nerve.

If the piriformis muscle gets tight or torn, it could result in sciatica or lower back pain. You could also suffer from Piriformis Syndrome, which manifests itself in a radiating pain from your buttocks and legs.


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Stretching For Runners

Both the Piriformis syndrome and sciatica are chronic conditions and can be treated with over the counter painkillers, rest and heat packs. However, one of the best ways to treat piriformis syndrome and sciatica is through specific piriformis stretches. Being a notoriously difficult muscle to reach, yoga stretches for the pririformis muscle are very effective since yoga poses gently but deeply stretch various muscles and strengthen them. Many yoga poses such as the Modified Half Lord of the Fishes pose, variations of the Pigeon pose, and the Eagle pose are excellent deep stretches for the piriformis muscle. Piriformis stretches in yoga are exceptionally beneficial if you are a runner; a dancer, a cyclist or you spend large parts of the day sitting at a desk.

Piriformis Stretches For Runners

If you are a runner who does not stretch properly before and after a workout, you are putting yourself in serious risk of injury. When you run without stretching certain muscles get used more than others. This can lead to over exhaustion and tightness of these muscles. If for example your hip muscles get tight after running, you could end up with problems in your hips as well as your legs and lower back. One problem can quickly lead to another and in no time at all, your form and performance will suffer. The piriformis stretch for runners is an important addition to your stretching routine. When the piriformis muscle is tight or injured, the range of motion of your hips and legs get affected. This also leads to pain and weakness in your legs and can hamper your running speed. Using a tennis ball as a prop in a piriformis stretch is an unusual but highly effective way of reducing the tension in the muscle. If you have only a mild pain around the area of the piriformis muscle, sit on a tennis ball for some firm pressure on the muscle. Place the tennis ball on a chair and position yourself so that the side with the pain is right on top of the tennis ball. Lower yourself onto the ball gently until the point where you feel some mild pain. There should be no sharp twinges of pain in this exercise therefore do not put all your weight on the tennis ball. Roll the tennis ball around the affected area for a deep massage. You can repeat this exercise twice a day till the pain goes away.

How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle:

Sitting Cross-Legged Stretch

The simplest way to stretch your piriformis muscle is to sit cross-legged on the floor everyday. This gives the muscle a gentle but effective stretch.

Piriformis Chair Stretch

If you sit at a desk the whole day, simply cross one leg over the other while seated at your chair. Make sure your ankle rests on the opposite knee. Lean forward slowly till you feel a stretch in the hips.

Lying Piriformis Stretch

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Bend your knees and cross one foot over the other with the ankle resting on the opposite knee.
  3. Lift the foot that is on the floor towards your chest.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Advanced Piriformis Stretch / Pigeon Pose

This is an advanced stretch and should not be done by beginners.

  1. Get into a push up position with your hands and toes on the ground.
  2. Place your right knee forward facing your right hand. Keep your ankle touching the floor.
  3. Your right knee should be angle in this position. Your left leg should be stretched out behind you.
  4. Make sure your hips are balanced and not tilting to one side.
  5. This stretch can be felt in the buttocks, hips and thighs.
  6. Breathe slowly and deeply and hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
  7. Release and repeat with the other leg.
  8. To intensify this stretch you can rest your forearms on the floor in front of your right leg or even stretch your arms out in front of you.

Piriformis Stretches Benefits

  • The main benefit of piriformis stretches is the reduction of pain symptomatic with piriformis syndrome or sciatica.
  • Stretching your piriformis muscle can also prevent injury by making it stronger and more flexible.
  • If you follow the dos and don’ts of piriformis stretches, you can effectively reduce muscle strain and tension and aid recovery and healing as well.
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