The Piriformis Stretch: Stretching that Pain in Your Butt

piriformis stretch

Your piriformis muscle can be a big pain in the butt. Literally. It’s a small muscle tucked deep into the back of your rear, and it’s possibly not getting the attention it deserves. This little triangle-shaped muscle attaches to your sacrum and crosses at the hip joint. It’s an important muscle for stability and is partially responsible for lateral rotation of your leg (moving the leg away from the center of the body).

Though it be but little, it is fierce. Or at the very least can cause fierce pain. In 17% of the population, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle, like a complicated friendship bracelet. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain that can radiate through your rear, the back of your thigh, and all the way down your leg. Our largely sedentary lifestyles make us prone to this kind of pain, but it can also be triggered by sitting on wallet in your back pocket, sitting on particularly hard surfaces, or a dramatic increase or reduction in physical activity.

Whether or not you have pain, a piriformis stretch can provide relief in your backside, hips, and lower back.

Woven Figure Four

  • Lay flat on your back. Bend your knees so that your feet are planted comfortably on the floor.
  • Raise the leg that’s in pain, and cross it over your other knee. The ankle of the affected leg should be hanging off the knee. Keep this foot flexed.
  • Gently use your hand to press the bent knee on your affected leg away from your body. You should feel a stretch under your hip and backside.
  • If you need more of a stretch, weave both hands around the non-affected leg, the one that is planted on the floor. Use this bind to bring the knee in close to your chest. Be mindful to keep the knee of the affected leg pointed away from the midline of your body.

Twisting Piriformis Stretch

  • Lay flat on your back. Lift the leg that is in pain and bend at the knee.
  • Using the hand on the opposite side of the body, gently pull your knee across your body in the direction of the floor. Try to keep your hips on the floor as much as possible.
  • For example, if you are feeling pain on your right side, lift and bend your right leg and use your left hand to bring the knee toward the ground on the left side. You should feel a stretch under your hip and in the back of your glutes. Be mindful to keep the right hip on the floor to get the benefits of this lower back twist.