There’s a tiny muscle you’ve probably never heard of that has a powerful effect on your daily movements, and can even be linked to sciatica. It’s called the piriformis and it enables you to move your hips, upper legs, and feet away from your body. The piriformis also covers the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back and down towards your legs.
When the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, it results in the very painful condition called “sciatica.”
The strains of daily life can place even more pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing numbness, tingling and even acute pain that can last from minutes to hours. This pain usually runs from the lower back toward the hip, buttocks, and legs. Before you realize it, sitting or changing positions becomes very difficult.
Luckily, there are several simple and effective ways to stretch out that tiny piriformis muscle and provide relief from your sciatica pain. Give these 10 powerful piriformis stretches a try— and be sure to watch the videos, too.
1. Simple Seated Stretch
- Start by sitting in a chair and cross your sore leg over the knee of your other leg.
- While keeping your spine straight, bend your chest forward. If you don’t feel pain, bend forward a little more.
- Hold this position for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat this stretch with your other leg.
2. Standing Piriformis Stretch
If you have trouble balancing with this stretch, stand with your back against a wall and your feet about 24 inches from the wall for extra support.
- While standing, place the leg that’s causing you pain over the knee of your other leg. It should create the shape of the number 4.
- Lower your hips at a 45-degree angle until they reach the ground. Bend the leg you’re standing on as needed.
- As you bend forward at the waist, reach your arms down to the ground while keeping your spine straight.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Switch legs when done
3. Supine Piriformis Stretch
- Lie down and bend your knees upwards.
- Cross the affected leg over your other leg and bend it upwards toward your chest.
- Grab your knee with one hand and your ankle in your other hand. Pull the bent leg across your body until your glutes are pulled tight.
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute and release.
4. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
- Lying on your back, bend your sore leg upward and place your foot close to the back of your other knee.
- Tuck your foot behind that knee and twist your leg to the opposite side. Your knee should be touching the ground (or as close as you can get).
- Place the hand on your opposite knee and raise your opposite arm in the air.
- Hold for 20 seconds.
- Switch to the other leg.
You’ll want to recover from this stretch! Lie on your back, bend both knees together and gently pull them with your hands toward your chest.
5. Groin/Long Adductor Stretch
- Sitting on the floor, stretch your legs straight out in front of you, spread as far apart as possible.
- Place your hands on the floor next to each other while angling your torso forward toward the ground.
- Lean forward and rest your elbows on the ground. If you encounter pain, stop right away!
- Remain in the position for 10-20 seconds
6. Inner Thigh/Short Adductor Stretch
- While sitting on the ground, put the soles of your feet together in front of your pelvis.
- Hold your ankles with the opposite hands (left hand – right ankle and vice versa).
- Gently push downward with your knees with the effort to touch the ground with them. You need to stop right before any pain occurs, which means that if you feel pain, get back an inch or two and stay there.
- Hold for 30 seconds, release, and flutter your legs in that position (like a butterfly) for 30 seconds.
Want an even deeper stretch? Push your knees down with your elbows or bend your torso forward while keeping your back straight.
7. Side Lying Clam
- Lie down on the side of your body that isn’t in pain.
- Bend your legs back, holding one foot over the other and keeping your legs parallel to each other. You should be creating an “L” shape.
- Keeping your feet together, lift up the top knee while keeping the rest of your body in the original position.
- Slowly bring your knee to the initial position.
- Repeat 15 times.
8. Hip Extension
- Get down on the ground on all fours, making sure your hands are in line with your shoulders.
- Raise your affected leg upward with your knee bent toward the ceiling.
- Gradually lower your leg until it’s almost touching the ground.
- Repeat 15 times.
9. Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
- Lie on the ground with your legs flat and back straight.
- Bend your sore leg upward, resting the foot on the outer side of the opposite leg beside the knee.
- Ease the knee of your affected leg across the middle of your body with your opposite hand until you feel a stretch, making sure to keep both your shoulders and hips on the ground.
- Hold for 30 seconds, return to the starting position and switch legs.
- Repeat the process 2-3 times
10. Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
- Place your hands and knees on the ground, getting into position on all fours.
- Bring the foot of your affected leg underneath your stomach, twisting it toward the opposite side near the hip, while pointing with the knee toward the shoulder.
- Lower your head, until your forehead touches the ground, and lean your forearms on the ground for support.
- Slowly stretch the non-affected leg out behind you, while keeping your pelvis straight.
- Push your hips slightly toward the floor.
- Hold for 30 seconds and return to the initial position slowly. Repeat 2-3 times.