Many people suffer from lower back pain that spreads downward to the limbs and feet. This can often be alleviated by doing a deep piriformis stretch – a stretch that releases tight piriformis muscles, and relaxes the sciatic nerve.
Constriction of the piriformis muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve because they lay in close proximity to each other. By irritating the sciatic nerve, the result is pain (either in the lower back or thigh), numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot.
What Is The Piriformis?
The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep in the buttock, behind the gluteus maximus. It connects the spine to the top of the femur and allows incredible flexibility in the hip region (it’s the main muscle that allows for outward movement of the hip, upper leg and foot from the body).
The sciatic nerve passes underneath this muscle on its route to the posterior thigh. However, in some individuals, the sciatic nerve can actually pass right through the muscle, leading to sciatica symptoms caused by a condition known as piriformis syndrome.
Unfortunately, for a lot of individuals, their sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle, leaving them with pain that just won’t go away (as well as poor mobility and balance).
Causes of Piriformis Syndrome
The exact causes of piriformis syndrome are unknown. The truth is, is that many medical professionals can’t determine a cause, so they cannot really diagnose it. Even with modern imaging techniques, the piriformis is difficult to identify.
Lower back pain caused by an impinged piriformis muscle accounts for 6-8% of those experiencing back pain.
Suspected causes of piriformis syndrome include
– Tightening of the muscle, in response to injury or spasm – Swelling of the piriformis muscle, due to injury or spasm – Irritation in the piriformis muscle itself – Irritation of a nearby structure such as the sacroiliac joint or hip – Bleeding in the area of the piriformis muscle
Any one of the above can affect the piriformis muscle, as well as the adjacent sciatic nerve.
Also, a misaligned or inflamed piriformis can cause difficult and pain while sitting and when changing positions (from sitting to standing). I actually stretched too far in a yoga pose once, and irritated my piriformis muscle – this took about 1-2 years to fully heal. I had major pain while sitting, and when changing positions from sitting to standing. I remember it being a huge pain in the butt (pardon the bun), but I just stuck with stretching and trigger point release and eventually it went away.
10 Deep Piriformis Stretches
1. Supine Piriformis Stretch
You need to start laid then bend the knees upwards, then put the affected leg over the other one and then raise them in the direction of your chest. By at that point, with one hand, get one knee, and the lower leg with the other.
The slowly pull the legs in the direction of the shoulders, keeping them lined up with the ankle, and remain in this pose for 30 seconds.
2. Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
First put the knees and hands on the floor, pull the painful leg’s foot underneath the body and bend it toward the other side, near the hip. The knee should be turned towards the shoulder.
By at that point, bring down the head all together the asylum to touch the floor, and lower the lower arms on the floor. Stretch the other leg behind you, with a straightened pelvis and to some degree pull the hips in the direction of the ground. Keep this pose for 30 seconds and perform 3 accentuations.
3. Hip Extension Exercise
Put the knees and hands on the floor, and the hands concurred with the shoulders, do not put the weight on the affected leg and lift the leg upward toward the housetop. A little bit at a time bring it down, and perform 15 accentuations.
4. Seated Stretch
Take a chair and sit on it, with the painful leg over the knee on other leg. By at that point, lean your chest and twist forward a bit, and keep this position for a few breaths. By at that point, attempt to twist more, and keep this pose for half a minute. Change legs and rehash.
5. Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
First lay down on the floor and put the legs level and the back in a straight line, turn the affected leg upward, and the foot needs to be placed on the external side of the other leg, near the knee.
Use the opposite leg and pull the knee of the troublesome leg over the midline of the body, and keep this pose for half a minute. Perform 3 redundancies.
6. Standing Piriformis Stretch
Stand, place your injured leg over your other leg’s knee (to form a “4”), lower your hip at a 45 degree angle, bend your standing leg’s knee as needed, and lean your torso forward while extending your arms parallel to the floor. Keep your spine straight, hold for 30-60 seconds, and repeat with your other leg.
7. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
Lie down, bend your injured leg up with your foot near the back of your other leg’s knee, put your foot behind your other leg’s knee, and twist your leg to the other side with your knee touching the ground. If you’re stretching your left leg, put your right hand on your knee and raise your left arm in the air. Lower your arm in the opposite direction of the knee while trying to touch your shoulder to the floor. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat wit other leg.
8. Long Adductor Stretch
Sit down, stretch your legs straight out and far apart, tilt your torso forward, and put your hands on the ground beside one another. Attempt to touch the floor with your elbows while leaning forward and hold for 20 seconds.
9. Short Adductor Stretch
Sit down and place the soles of your feet together in front of you. Hold your ankles with opposite hands, push down with your knees, and attempt to reach the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then flutter your legs for 30 seconds.
10. Side Lying Clam Exercise
Lie down on your side. Your affected hip should be on top. Proceed by bending your legs backward. This should look a bit like the letter L. Do this while keeping one of your feet over your other one. The legs should be parallel to one another. Make sure your spine isn’t bent, and that the affected hip remains directly on top. Raise your top knee in an upward position, making sure your feet remain together, and that your body stays in the original pose. Now just slowly return your knee to its original position. Repeat this 15 times.