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There are several different ways that the Piriformis muscle can be stretched. The stretches I am going to show you below are quite gentle ones.
The Piriformis muscle is situated deep within the buttock region, where it attaches to the outside of your hip and also the outer part of your sacrum (as shown below).
As it travels between these two points, the Sciatic Nerve either passes through this muscle itself, or directly underneath (it varies from person to person). A tight Piriformis muscle can be responsible for either Low Back Pain or Sciatica, I will go on to explain now:
Low Back Pain
With regards to Low Back Pain, one of the most important aspects is that this muscle is attached to Sacrum. Consequently, if the Piriformis muscle is tight, it will have an increased 'tugging' effect on this bone.
The Sacrum forms half of the Sacro-Iliac joint (Sacro referring to the Sacrum and Iliac referring to the specific part of the pelvis that forms the joint with the Sacrum) and if the sacrum is being pulled on too much, there will be increased stresses placed across the Sacro-Iliac joint, which itself can ultimately lead to pain.
If you find that your Low Back Pain begins not in the lower back itself, but rather a little further down (but above the buttock region), there is a reasonable chance it is Sacro-Iliac pain your are suffering with. Some people often say to me it feels as if the pain is coming from an area below their back where there are a 'couple of dimples'. This is in the area of the Sacro-Iliac joint and if you feel the same, it maybe this joint which is the source of your pain.
If it is a tight Piriformis muscle which is responsible for your Sciatica, the crucial component is that the Sciatic Nerve passes through or underneath the Piriformis as it travels from the Lower Back, through the buttock and down the leg. Consequently, if this muscle is particularly tight, it will place increased stress upon the Sciatic Nerve and potentially lead to pain.
If you find that your Sciatica begins in the buttock area as opposed to the lower back, there is a reasonable chance it is the Piriformis muscle which may be contributing to your pain. If this is a result of the Piriformis muscle being tight, it needs to be stretched.
Therefore, I am sure you can now see how a tight Piriformis muscle can lead to either Low Back Pain or Sciatica.
I will now show you two gentle stretches which will be more than enough to get you started. The reason I am starting you off on these gentle stretches, is because if it is a tight Piriformis muscle which is responsible for your Pain and you begin to stretch it too aggressively at first, there is every chance you will just exacerbate your pain.
If this were to happen, it is nothing to worry about, it is just your body's way of saying you are performing too much too soon and therefore you need to ease off a little. Nevertheless, we want to avoid aggravating your pain if we can help it!
Piriformis Stretch One
Lying on your back with both knees bent, gently place the ankle of the side to be stretched upon your opposite knee. Then place the hand of the same side to be stretched on your knee as shown and gently push your knee away from you.
Hold: 20 - 30 seconds
Reps: 2 - 3
Times per Day: 2 - 3
With this stretch, you should be looking for a stretching sensation in the region of your buttock, however you may find the stretch passes a little further down the leg or even into your lower back. As long as it is only a stretching sensation then this is no problem. You should feel no pain though.
NB. If you find it difficult to even place your ankle upon your opposite knee as shown, this implies your Piriformis muscle is extremely tight. Threrefore there is even more reason for you to need to stretch this muscle, however you need to be careful as you may easily aggravate the pain you are suffering with.
I would suggest you do not bend the knee of your opposite leg quite so much, as this will not place as much of a stretch across the Piriformis muscle.
Piriformis Stretch Two
If you are finding the above stretch quite easy or maybe feel no stretch at all, I am going to suggest a slight modification which will stretch the Piriformis muscle a little further...
The aim here is to place your hand behind your opposite knee and then gently pull your knee closer towards your chest (as shown below). As you do this, still maintain a slight pressure upon your other knee (the one on the side being stretched). This should increase the stretch across the Piriformis muscle and you should begin to feel a stretch in the buttock region, down the leg a little or slightly into the lower back, just as described above for the previous stretch.
Hold: 20 - 30 seconds
Reps: 2 - 3
Times per Day: 2 - 3
As an alternative to holding behind your knee, you could also hold behind your ankle instead, either way, the aim is to bring your knee and ankle on the side being stretched closer to your chest.
There are other stretches which will be more aggressive and a better stretch for the Piriformis muscle, but as I alluded to above, these will have the potential to aggravate your Low Back Pain or Sciatica shouldfurther, should you perform them too aggressively. However, the stretches given above should be suffice to get you started and help alleviate any pain you are suffering with at the moment.
I hoper you enjoy the above stretches and they help alleviate your pain
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