It is entirely possible that you haven’t heard of the piriformis muscle, and for that matter the piriformis stretch. How to perform it the right way?
Hopefully though, by the end of this article, you will know what it is, where it is, why you should stretch, and how to perform the piriformis stretch safely to reap the benefits.
The piriformis muscle itself is incredibly important for hip and leg movement and overall balance whilst we are upright.
Where is the Piriformis muscle?
The Piriformis muscle is notoriously hard to reach and is located on the top of your spine down to your thigh bone. The piriformis muscle runs diagonally alongside the sciatic nerve, those who suffer from a tight muscle often feel sciatic pain.
A tight piriformis muscle and the pain associated with it is known as piriformis syndrome.
Symptoms of Piriformis syndrome:
- Pain the in hip when sitting
- Numbness in the hip area that does not go away
- Pain felt in the hamstring
- Spasms from the back of your leg coming from the hip
- Pain in the piriformis area
- Tenderness in a spot in the pelvis, between your sacrum and the top of the femur
What causes Piriformis Syndrome?
A tight piriformis muscle can occur when we don’t sit properly in a chair, so with hips rotated in an outwards direction, it can put a lot of strain on your lower back, which will create an imbalance in your entire muscular system.
This type of syndrome is not always caused by a bad sitting posture, it can also be caused by exercising on hard surfaces, exercising on uneven ground, increasing exercise intensity too quickly and believe it or not exercising in ill-fitting shoes.
How to perform a piriformis stretch
The main thing about performing this stretch correctly is sitting up straight. As with all muscles, there isn’t any point in stretching it if you going to keep tightening it, so begin nice and straight.
- Roll up a hand towel into a sausage shape
- Ensure you are sat on a firm surface and find your bottom bones, these are the two bones at the lowest part of your bum.
- Pull the flesh up so you are just sitting directly on these bones
- Place the hand towel under the flesh you pulled away from the bones, not on the bones. So make sure you aren’t sitting on the towel.
Performing a piriformis stretch
Once you feel comfortable, you are ready to perform the stretch.
- Contract your abdominal muscles (it will be like trying to hold a wee in when going to the toilet). Relax the upper body, shoulders rolled back away from the ears
- Create a lumbar arch from the lower levels of the spine, which means don’t arch the middle of your back, but the lower back. You don’t want to be creating a hunch.
- Pull your shoulders up and down, and relax the next.
- Once you are comfortable in this position, feet should be flat on the floor, take your right leg and the place the right ankle on the left knee. Place the foot back down and repeat on the other side. Lift your left leg and place the left ankle on the right knee, and then release.
This exercise should be undertaken for at least four weeks. In time you will want to look at doing three sets of fifteen repetitions to really feel the benefits of piriformis stretch.
Why perform a piriformis stretch?
This type of stretch is really good for knee pain and ankle pain as well as sciatica pain caused by slouching. When you have got a tight piriformis muscle it will change the way you walk, you will tend to put extra strain on the inside and outside of the knee joint.
Piriformis stretch is great for people who suffer from the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation found on the bottom of the feet. By performing this type of stretch, you can help with illnesses you may already suffer from but also prevent getting them in the first place.
Activities such as walking, cycling, running, dancing required a healthy piriformis so it’s well worth you undertaking a piriformis stretch even if you are not experiencing pain at the moment, it’s a great preventative stretch.
If you are strapped for time, below is another way of performing the piriformis stretch whilst at work!
- Begin with your feet together, knees are bent and stick your bum out.
- Place your hands on your bum cheeks, and draw the knees apart ever so slightly
- With this simple stretch, your piriformis muscle will be working, underneath your gluteal muscles
There are also a number of yoga postures that stretch the piriformis muscle including pigeon, and half lotus, so if you are an avid yoga student, you are already conditioning and strengthening your piriformis muscle!
By Holly W.