Piriformis Stretch

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Who:

  • Anyone experiencing tightness in their piriformis or gluteus muscles, IT-band, and any muscles that turn the leg outward.
  • People who do a lot of sitting because stretching can help wake up the gluteus muscles that are neglected while being in that position.
  • People with piriformis syndrome and sciatica symptoms because loosening these muscles is one step in reducing tension on the sciatic nerve.

piriformis

Piriformis muscle

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The piriformis turns the leg out.

How:

There are many ways to do this stretch, so you have many options depending on your flexibility, but the thing each has in common is that you cross the leg of the side you are stretching over the other so that your legs sort of make a figure four and your knee is at 90°, and then bring your leg towards your chest so you feel the stretch between your hip and butt.

  1. Lay on your back and pull your crossed legs up to your chest.piriformis stretch
  2. Cross your legs while sitting, and lean down. Make sure to keep your back straight.

piriformis stretch (2)

  1. Use a table, railing, or any surface that is at the right height for you and cross your leg on top of the table, leaning in until you feel the resistance.

piriformis stretch (3)

  1. For those who can stand on one leg, you can simply cross your legs and squat down as you balance on the uncrossed leg.

piriformis stretch (4)

5. Bring your crossed leg towards your chest as you lay on top of it, with the other leg stretched out behind you. Keep your hips facing forward, and your front knee in line with your hip.

piriformis stretch (5)

I’m sure there are even more varieties. Pick the one that seems most stable and beneficial to you, or try them all. Remember:

  • Ease in and out of a stretch slowly
  • A gentle, gradual stretch is more effective than rushing or pushing through it
  • Stretch both sides, even if only one is giving you problems

When:

Personally, I use whichever stretch seems most appropriate for where I’m at. For example, you can do number 2 almost anywhere since there’s usually a chair available and that’s one that no one will even notice you are doing. Number 4 is my favorite since you really can do it anywhere, but it does require some balance or something to hold on to. Do this stretch at home, work, after exercise, while standing in line at Disneyland, while taking a bathroom break during a road trip, or every time you see a table the right height for number 3.

 

A Note on Prevention:

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Ever notice how we often turn our feet out, or how many people sit with their legs spread out wide? There’s nothing wrong with that, but as I’ve explained in other posts (Slouching, Doorway, etc.), muscles get used to the way we repetitively use them. Once in a while, check in with how you are sitting or standing. If your feet tend to be turned out, or even if they turn in: that’s normal. Normal here means that everyone tends to let their feet deviate in one way or the other, but they “should” be mostly pointing forward. I don’t have the experience to know for certain whether simply being aware and trying to point your feet forward whenever you think of it will over time cause your foot posture to improve, but being mindful of it is the first step.

A couple other ways to help your piriformis muscle out are to sit less often in general, and if you are sitting, don’t have your wallet or phone in your back pocket. This puts pressure on the muscle, which if done continuously over time, can lead to increased tension.

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