What is the piriformis muscle?

The piriformis muscle is a flat superficial muscle, located in the deep gluteal (buttocks) muscles. The functions that the piriformis assists with is tilting the pelvis to the side (laterally) and to the back (posteriorly) and rotating the hip while extended. The piriformis muscle can be used to locate the sciatic nerve.

Anatomy of the piriformis:

Anatomy of the piriformis

How do you stretch the piriformis muscle?

Piriformis stretch lying down:
Piriformis stretch lying down

While lying on your back with both knees bent, cross your affected leg on the other knee. Next, hold your unaffected thigh and pull it up towards your chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock.

Piriformis stretch in sitting:

Piriformis stretch in sitting

Relax your arms next to the side of your body or relax them on your leg (DO NOT use your hands to push down on the knee since this will actually shorten the piriformis instead of stretch it). Just hinge forward at the hips and you will feel the stretch in the hip/buttock region. Hold for 30 seconds at a time before doing it on the other side..

Pigeon stretch piriformis:

Pigeon stretch piriformis:

Start on hands and knees. Lift up and bring the leg to be stretched up into a figure 4 position. Scoot back to increase the stretch. Roll a little to adjust the location of the stretch but try to keep your pelvis square to the front. Bringing your foot closer to your elbow will also increase the stretch. You should feel this in your butt on the side of the bent leg. Support yourself on your elbows.

Why should you stretch the piriformis muscle?

When the piriformis muscle becomes tight it can put pressure and impinge on the sciatic nerve, therefore potentially causing piriformis syndrome. It is crucial to perform the stretches as well as to carry out what the physiotherapist prescribes. As this will help to relieve pain along the sciatic nerve and therefore can increase mobility.

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