Many people suffer from lower back pain. This condition is quite common and there are numerous reasons why it actually happens. One of these reasons is constriction of the piriformis muscle and it happens more often then you might assume.
This slim and small muscle is located behind the gluteus maximus and it connects the spine to the top of the femur.
When this muscle tightens, becomes inflamed, gets pulled or spasms you need an effective piriformis stretch to relieve the pain and restore the muscle function.
What is the Piriformis?
Because the largest muscle is in front of it, the piriformis is hard to get. The function of the piriformis allows the foot, upper leg and hip outward from the body.
The piriformis covers the largest nerve in the body (sciatic nerve) which stretches from the lower back to the legs.
In some cases, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis. Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve is disturbed and causes a lot of pain.
Not only has the hip and leg movement rely on the proper function of the piriformis, but also the overall balance of the body too.
On one side the piriformis is connected to the front part of the sacrum (the triangular bone) at the base of the spine.
This is the only pelvic muscle that is actually attached to the front of the sacrum which provides the balance of the legs and the pelvis.
It maintains stability in a way that the psoas muscle at the front of the pelvis and the gluteus maximus contract with each other.
What Causes Piriformis Syndrome?
It’s a surprising fact that the piriformis syndrome is a quite controversial condition in the medicine. Even with modern technology, experts can’t determent the cause.
This term comes from the collection of sciatica conditions in 1947 and it wasn’t identified as a specific issue. Since then lower back pain caused by an impinged piriformis muscle has been classified as a true condition.
If the piriformis puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, severe pain, Numbness, and tingling feeling occur.
This is a quote dull pain and severe pain in the back, buttocks, hip, and legs is triggered. Inflamed or misaligned piriformis causes a great pain while sitting or just changing position. For example, the transition from sitting to standing.
What a Healthy Piriformis Can Do For You
It is a key element in our body when it comes to the leg and hip mobility. For example, walking, running, cycling etc. require a healthy piriformis.
How to Get a Deep Piriformis Stretch with these 12 Exercises
1. Supine Piriformis Stretches
A) Stretch while laying
1. Position yourself laying on your back, one hand placed on the raised heel and the other one on the knee. 2. Now, slowly move your knee toward your shoulder and cross the calf toward the opposite shoulder side. 3. Hold that position for 5 seconds and then release 4. Next, repeat the exercise with the other leg. As you get used to the exercise, extend the holding time up to 60 seconds.
B) This one is similar as the previous one, but without the crossover:
1. First, Raise the knee and the hand from the same side and move it third the shoulder. 2. Now, you need to Cross your calf across the body while keeping the knee and the shoulder in line. 3. Hold for 5 seconds and then release.
C) For a deeper stretch:
1. Bend both of your knees while lying on the back. Then, just above the knee, place one ankle on the opposite leg. 2. Next, start raising the bottom leg from the floor toward your chest until you feel the pull in the pelvis. 3. Hold that position for 5 seconds. 4. Finally, slowly move the lower leg on the floor, straighten the top leg. After that switch sides.
2. Standing Piriformis Stretch
This exercise is good for stretching your glutes and piriformis. You will activate the piriformis muscle as the pelvic balance is engaged and your body weight shifts. The piriformis muscle is covered by the glute muscles, therefore it is recommended to exercise them both together.
In case this stretch causes you pain in the joints, you can skip it.
1. Position yourself with the back against the wall and walk your feet forward 24 inches. Then, place your knees over the ankles and lower the hips 45 degrees lower. 2. Next, position the right foot off the floor and position your right ankle on your left knee. 3. Lower your chest toward your knees and Lean forward while maintaining you’re back straight. 4. When you’ll feel a stretch in the glutes, stop. 5. Hold that position for 30 seconds and then switch the legs.
3. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
By doing this exercise you will stretch the muscles which are required to rotate the hip outwards.
1. First, lie on the back while bending the right knee. 2. Next, by using your left hand pull the knee over to the left side. As you do so, make sure you keep on the ground. You will feel the stretch in your buttocks and hip. 3. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then do it again. It is recommended 3 times a day.
4. Long Adductor (Groin) Stretch
The inner thigh are the legs’ adductor muscles. The pelvis to the knee is attached on the long adductors and the short adductors continue from the pelvis to the femur.
1. After you take a sit on the ground, stretch your legs apart as possible. 2. Next, place the hands on the ground while you tilt your torso. 3. Lean forward to try to touch the ground with the elbows. Hold the position for around 20 seconds.
If you start to feel some pain you should stop immediately.
5. Short Adductor (Inner Thigh) Muscle Stretch
The effect of this exercise you will mostly feel at the top of the inner thigh.
In case you are not able to put your feet together, just try to get them as close as possible. As you repeat this exercise it will be more and easier to do it.
1. As you sit on the floor, place the soles of your feet together. 2. By using the elbows, apply a gentle pressure down to the knees. 3. The stretch will be felt on the Inside of the thigh. To be more effective in this exercise, lean forward while keeping your back straight. 4. Stay in that position for 30 seconds and then release. 5. Repeat the exercise multiple times in a row.
6. Muscle Energy Technique
For this exercise, you will require a partner and it’s best it is a trained professional therapist.
1. Position yourself lying on the belly and bend one knee. 2. The therapist will rotate the leg outwards as much as you are comfortable. 3. Then he will apply a gentle pressure on the piriformis for 30 seconds.
7. Resistance Band Abduction
This is a very effective stretch, especially for the glute. For this exercise, you will need a resistance band. This band provides an increased range of motion and an isometric direction of the stretch. For starters, you can use a looser band.
1. In this exercise, you start with a resistance band anchored to a doorway or chair leg and wrapped around the ankle. 2. The leg is taken out to the side as far as possible. 3. Then slowly return to the starting position. 4. Repeat this move for 15 times and they make another set.
8. Side Lying Clam Exercise
This is also known as sciatica exercise. This exercise will work on your piriformis, glute and will loosen the lower back. It’s commonly used in rehabilitation of lower back pain and hip injuries.
1. Lay on one side and bend your knees and place your hand that’s on the ground around your head. 2. Position your feet in line with the spine. 3. The top hip needs to be directly on top of the other 4. While keeping the ankles together, raise the top knee. 5. Then slowly return the knee to the primary position. Repeat this exercise 15 times.
9. Hip Extension Exercise
This exercise will stretch both the glute and the pelvic muscles.
1. Position yourself on the floor on all fours with your shoulders directly over your hands. 2. Raise one leg behind the other. 3. Keep the knee bent and moving the sole of the foot towards the ceiling. 4. Lower the leg slowly, returning to the starting position and repeat the exercise with the other leg. 5. Repeat 15 times and gradually increase the number.
10. Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
This stretch will release the tension of the sciatic nerve and the lower back.
If you have sciatica it’s important to do the exercise gently so you don’t inflame the nerve.
1. Lie down on the floor and with the legs flat and straight your back 2. Then, bend one leg and place the floor next to the opposite knee. 3. With your opposite hand, pull the knee of the affected leg across the midline of your body until you feel a stretch. 4. Make sure you do not lift your shoulders and hips off the exercise mat. It is also important not to pull the knee beyond the stretch or to the floor.
* Two bonus exercise
Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
By doing this exercise you will feel muscles tense from back to front. Stretching of the glute muscles will greatly impact the piriformis.
1. Position your hands and knees on the floor. And, bring one foot underneath your trunk. At this point, one of the knees is on the outside of your trunk. 2. Slowly stretch the other leg out behind you, but keep your pelvis straight. 3. Keep your leg in place, and push your hips slightly toward the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds. 4. Slowly come down on your forearms and lean on them. 5. Repeat the exercise 3 times in a row.
This exercise will affect all the muscles in your pelvis and lower back. It is very effective against sciatica.
1. Sit on a chair and cross the right over the left knee. 2. While keeping your back straight, bend slightly forward 3. Hold this position for 60 seconds and then repeat it on the opposite side.
When you are doing the exercises properly and gently you will definitely enjoy the benefits they can provide. However, too intense stretch can cause inflammation meaning your body is trying to repair the damage.