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Piriformis Release: How To Release a Tight Piriformis

The piriformis release stretch targets the piriformis muscle in the glutes, which can help alleviate hip and lower back pain.

The piriformis muscle is one of the essential muscles in your lower body. If you have piriformis syndrome, it can lead to pain that may be mistaken for sciatica or other common types of lower back pain. Piriformis syndrome affects more than just the piriformis muscle; it also causes problems with other structures in your hips and pelvis as well as your legs, feet, and toes.

Fortunately, there are many ways to release this muscle so that you can get relief from piriformis syndrome!

What causes the piriformis to flare up?

Long-distance running, swimming, and even walking up the stairs after periods of inactivity can cause pain due to a tightening/stretching of the piriformis muscle which squeezes on the sciatic nerve.

High-intensity activities such as HIIT training or lifting heavy weights could aggravate an injury by stretching out muscles around or near where your sciatic nerve is located. Just going up some stairs after not doing much activity at all may also result in tightness and pain if you have suffered from injuries related to this area before.

Stretching the piriformis

To relieve painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve and improve hip range of motion, a number of stretching treatments for the piriformis muscle, hamstring muscles, and hip extensor muscles may be utilized.

Stretching exercises that may help with sciatica pain caused by piriformis muscle issues include:

Reference for all pictures:

Cross-body piriformis stretch

Piriformis stretch

Lie on the floor on your back with your legs flat. Place the foot of the injured leg on the floor outside of the unaffected knee. With your opposite hand, pull the bent knee straight across the body using your hand until a stretch is felt, keeping your other arm behind you for support if necessary. Do not force the knee to touch down. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and aim to complete 3 sets.

Supine piriformis stretch

Piriformis stretch

Lie on your back with your legs flat. With one foot, pull the affected leg up toward the chest and hold it behind the knee with one hand while grasping the ankle with the other hand. Pull the knee toward the opposite shoulder until a stretch is felt by leading with the ankle. Do not push beyond a comfortable position with either of these limbs. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then return to the starting position. Like the other stretch, aim to complete 3 sets.

Knee-to-chest piriformis stretch

Piriformis stretch

Lie on your back with both legs bent and place your ankle of the injured leg on the thigh of the other leg near the knee. Gently pull your healthy foot off the ground as you lightly push down on the opposite knee until a stretch is felt in your affected hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return the foot to the ground. Aim to complete 3 sets.

Piriformis Trigger Points

If your piriformis is the cause of your lower back discomfort, you could feel sensitivity to pain and pressure in your glutes, lower back, and superior lateral thigh. Piriformis trigger points can spread agony to the rear of your thighs, so the discomfort isn't limited to your buttocks and hip region.

The piriformis trigger point is located outside the edge of the sacrum, which is a large bone at the base of the spine. The lateral piriformis trigger point is several inches to the interior of the greater trochanter landmark, along the piriformis line. Both of these piriformis trigger points are 

able to transmit pain to the sacroiliac joint, buttock or posterior hip.

Lower back discomfort caused by piriformis trigger points is common for many people, however, it is treatable and pain may be reduced with Physiotherapy or Massage Therapy.

How to release a tight piriformis

Things you'll need:

  • foam roller
  • lacrosse ball or tennis ball

Step 1

The first step is to utilize the stretches listed above. Stretching the piriformis is an excellent option for alleviating pain. Start with 5 seconds and work your way up to 60 seconds of continuous stretch over time. Repeat this process several times throughout the day if necessary. If you're experiencing discomfort on the left, use the same technique on the left side of your body.

Step 2

Take a tennis ball and put it beneath your piriformis. Any trigger points, or knots within the muscle, will be worked out with this technique. Lie on the ball for 30 seconds. Relax for one minute before getting up. Repeat four to five times to get rid of any remaining tension in your targeted muscles.

Step 3

Use a foam roller. This may also be used to release a trigger point. To release the piriformis on the left side of your body, lie down on your left side and place your left elbow on the mat or floor. This will help to keep your upper body stable. Underneath your left hip, beneath your piriformis, place the foam roller and roll back and forth to release any tension in the muscle. If you experience pain on the right side, do the same thing.

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