How To Get A Deep Piriformis Stretch To Get Rid Of Pain In The Back, Hip, Buttocks and Legs

Lower back pain is very common and can be the result of a variety of causes. One of these isn’t usually the primary suspect but it occurs more often than one might think: constriction of the piriformis muscle.

This small slim muscle is behind the gluteus maximus, connecting the spine to the top of the femur. If the piriformis muscle tightens, gets pulled, becomes inflamed, or spasms, an effective piriformis stretch can restore muscle function and relieve pain.

Exercising and stretching the piriformis takes a conscious effort but it’s worth it for both prevention and pain relief. The following eight stretches you can do to give this often-overlooked muscle some attention:

1. Supine Piriformis Stretches

A) Lying stretch

  1. Lying on your back, place your hand on the same side of one knee, with the other hand on the raised heel.
  2. Gently raise the knee toward your shoulder and cross the calf across your body toward the opposite shoulder.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat with the other leg. As you get used to this piriformis stretch, extend the holding time of the stretch up to 60 seconds.

B) Similar to A) but without the crossover:

  1. Raise one knee and the same-side hand toward the shoulder on the same side.
  2. Cross your calf across the body but keep the knee in line with the shoulder on the same side.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.

C) For a deeper stretch:

  1. While lying on your back, bend both knees and place one ankle over the opposite leg, just above the knee.
  2. Raise the bottom leg off the floor toward your chest until you feel the pull in the pelvis.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Slowly release the lower leg back to the floor, straighten the top leg, and switch sides.

2. Standing Piriformis Stretch

This exercise will stretch your piriformis and your glutes. You’ll involve the piriformis muscle as your weight shifts and pelvic balance is engaged. Remember that your glute muscles cover the piriformis, so it’s a good idea to exercise them together rather than trying to isolate one or the other. If doing this piriformis stretch hurts your joints, skip it.

  1. Stand with your back against a wall and walk your feet forward 24 inches. Position your knees over your ankles, then lower your hips 45 degrees toward the floor.
  2. Lift your right foot off the ground and place the outside of your right ankle on your left knee.
  3. Lean forward and lower your chest toward your knees while maintaining a straight back.
  4. Stop when you feel a stretch in your glutes.
  5. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch legs and do the same.

3. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch

This exercise will stretch the muscles required to rotate the hip outwards.

  1. Lie on your back and bend the right knee.
  2. Use the left hand to pull the knee over to the left side. Keep your back on the ground as you do so. You should feel this in the hip and buttocks.
  3. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, repeat 3-5 times, and stretch 3 times a day.

4. Long Adductor (Groin) Stretch

The legs’ adductor muscles are those of the inner thigh: long adductors attach the pelvis to the knee and short adductors go from the pelvis to the femur.

Because these muscles are connected to both the pelvis and the leg, it’s important to loosen the thighs as well as the pelvic and gluteal muscles to relieve tension in the piriformis.

  1. Sit on the floor and stretch your legs straight out, as far apart as is comfortable.
  2. Tilt slightly forward at the hips and place your hands next to each other on the floor, about a foot in front of your torso.
  3. Lean forward and drop your elbows to the floor (or as far down as you can go). You will feel a stretch in the pelvis.
  4. Hold 10-20 seconds, then release. Pause and repeat.

5. Short Adductor (Inner Thigh) Muscle Stretch

You’ll feel this stretching exercise at the top of the inner thigh.

If you can’t yet put your feet together, place them as close together as you comfortably can and be careful with the angles of your knees.

As you incorporate it into your routine, you’ll be able to move your feet closer to your body for a more intense piriformis stretch.

  1. Sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together.
  2. Use your elbows to apply a gentle downward pressure to your knees to increase the stretch.
  3. You should feel a stretch on the inside of the thigh. For a deeper stretch, lean forward, keeping your back straight.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Release and flutter your legs for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3-5 times in a row and stretch 3 times a day.

6. Muscle Energy Technique

This is a very effective piriformis stretch but requires a partner who should be a trained professional (massage therapist, physiotherapist, a specialist in sports medicine, etc.).

  1. Lie on your front belly and bend one leg.
  2. The doctor will rotate the bent leg outwards as far as it will comfortably go.
  3. He’ll then apply gentle pressure to the piriformis as the athlete moves his/her foot from side to side for about 30 seconds.

7. Resistance Band Abduction

This is a great glute stretch. Using a resistance band increases the range of motion and provides an isometric stretch for muscles that are otherwise hard to reach. (4) Resistance bands come in different strengths so you can start with a looser one and move to a tighter one as you become more toned and accustomed to the exercise.

  1. Stand with one end of the band tied around the right ankle and the other end attached to a fixed object, close to the floor.
  2. Move the right leg out to the side, away from the body, keeping the knee straight.
  3. Once you get as far as is comfortable, slowly return the leg back to the center.
  4. Repeat 15 times and gradually build this up to 2 sets of 20 reps.

8. Side Lying Clam Exercise

Better known as a sciatica exercise, this piriformis stretch will work your glute muscles, piriformis, and loosen the lower back.

  1. Lay on your side with the hip to be worked on top.
  2. Bend your knees and position them forward so that your feet are in line with your spine.
  3. Make sure your top hip is directly on top of the other and your back is straight.
  4. Keeping the ankles together, raise the top knee away from the bottom one. Remember, don’t move your back or tilt your pelvis; all the movement should be coming from the hip.
  5. Slowly return the knee to the starting position. Repeat 15 times initially and gradually build up to 2 sets of 20.

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