Self Care Tip – Stretching the Piriformis

Stretching the Piriformis

The piriformis muscle is one of three muscles (psoas major and gluteus maximus are the others) connecting the legs to the spine. It inserts on the outside of the thigh bone and crosses the back of the pelvis to attach to the front portion of the sacrum, the triangular bone between the two hip bones. The two hip bones and the sacrum make up the pelvis.   Its primary role is external rotation.  Deep internal rotators, while small, produce a lot of the movement at the hip and are often overlooked. Since the piriformis crosses over the sciatic nerve, if it is tight, it can result in sciatic nerve irritation.  Stretching this muscle can prevent potential future sciatica, or help treat it.

Piriformis stretches can create space where the impingement of the sciatic nerve causes pain and discomfort. Crossing one ankle over the opposite knee in any position can facilitate a piriformis stretch that might help to alleviate this type of distress.

The sciatic nerve forms directly in front of the piriformis muscle after five nerve roots travel from the base of the spine cord to meet up at the piriformis. If the piriformis muscle goes into spasm or is unduly tight it can press on the sciatic nerve creating a pain that often radiates or shoots down the leg.

Massage and a regular home-stretching program can often create an environment that relieves the symptoms of both piriformis syndrome and sciatica, as well as paying closer attention to ways that we walk and stand.