Whether you have lower back pain, hip pain, or pain all the way down your side… a common cause of all this pain is a tight piriformis. A tight piriformis can create lots of sciatic nerve pain, as they are located in close proximity to each other.
So what is the piriformis? It is a pretty small muscle located in the center of the butt, behind the gluteus maximus. It connects your lower back to your thighbone and allows your hips to be mobile and flexible. As you can see it connects a lot of things.
Therefore if something is wrong with this muscle or if it is particularly tight, it can be the cause of some uncomfortable pain. Since the sciatic nerve passes underneath the muscle, I believe a healthy and mobile piriformis muscle can help ease sciatic pain.
There is not one thing that can cause your piriformis to tighten up. Many of our lifestyle choices are to blame: sitting frequently, not walking enough, leaning into your hip when you stand, carrying heavy purses, not stretching often enough… The list could go on and on. So let’s talk about how to help the issue.
Below are four of the best stretches you can do to loosen up your piriformis muscle. I will also talk you through how to use a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or any hard circular object to get deeper into the muscle and get rid of the tightness.
You can do this seated or by lying on your back. Bend your legs and cross your right ankle of your left knee. Pull your left leg in towards your chest as you push your right knee away from your chest. You should feel your hip start to open up. This may be uncomfortable, so remember to breath. Every time you exhale pull your left leg closer to your chest. Remember to do both sides.
Similar to the Figure 4 stretch, you will be working one leg at a time. Step your right foot forward in front of your left wrist and let your knee settle in front of your right wrist. In this position you are resting on the side of your right leg. Your left leg will stretch out straight behind you. Try to keep your left hip pointed down towards the ground. A tip for this stretch: the closer your right foot is to the center of your body the less intense it is. Keep your right foot flexed to take pressure off of your knees.
Sit up on your butt. Bring the bottoms of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the sides. Reach your arms forward past your feet (if you can). Again, use your breathing to help you. Every time you exhale, reach further! This is another great hip opener as well as an inner thigh stretch.
Supine twist towards shoulder
I’ve talked about the supine twist many times on this blog. Lie on your back and pull your right knee towards your chest. Now pull the leg over to the left across your body. To focus on your piriformis more, pull the leg closer to your left shoulder. Keep your right shoulder down the entire time.
You will see instructions on how to foam roll out your piriformis muscle in the video below. I don’t talk about this muscle until 9:15 into the video. But you will find other helpful tips in the video, so please feel free to watch it all!