Have Sciatica Pain in Your Rear? 3 Stretches to Help

Are you experiencing tightness and pain deep in the glute region, and no amount of rest seems to help? If so, you could have injured or overused the piriformis muscle. The piriformis is a small flat muscle that connects the base of the spine to the thigh bone. Inflammation in the area can cause serious pain that could even reminisce sciatica. In this article, we explain why piriformis pain occurs and show you three simple stretches that will help release the muscle and alleviate the pain.

Piriformis Pain Explained

Piriformis Syndrome Piriformis muscle location
The piriformis muscles are located deep in the buttock area and close to the sciatic nerves on each side. With overuse and injury, the piriformis can become inflamed, and in some cases, the inflammation can spread or pinch the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve, in turn, is the longest and widest nerve in the human body. A pinched sciatic nerve causes strong shooting and tingling pain in the lower back that can spread down to the buttock, thigh, and all and the way to the foot.
Whether or not the sciatic nerve is affected, an inflamed and painful piriformis muscle causes a condition called piriformis syndrome. As you may or may not know, other conditions, such as a herniated spinal disc, can also cause sciatic pain, or sciatica, and piriformis syndrome is but one possible cause of this condition. To learn more about sciatica and exercises to treat it, read our article 7 Simple Yoga Poses to Help Deal with Your Sciatica Pain.
Regardless of the severity, piriformis syndrome is quite painful. Many patients report that the pain is getting worse during prolonged periods of sitting and when climbing stairs or walking uphill. Patients describe their pain as sharp and deep and point out that they also experience reduced flexibility and mobility in the hips. To treat piriformis syndrome, your doctor and physiotherapist will work together to reduce the inflammation and strengthen the piriformis and the surrounding muscles to prevent the condition from recurring.
Meanwhile, you can take NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin to lower inflammation and reduce the pain. Likewise, you can try one of the exercises we recommend below to alleviate the pain and stretch the muscle on days you’re sitting or standing a lot.

Simple Stretches to Relieve Piriformis Pain

1. Cross-Body Piriformis Stretch

This cross-body stretch is super easy to do at home. It releases the piriformis muscles on each side, and it is perfect to alleviate tightness and pain in the buttocks and lower back. To complete this stretch, follow these steps: 

1. Lie down on your back with both legs extended, preferably on a mat or a soft carpet. 
2. Bend the left knee, and bring it up and towards the chest. Use both of your hands to keep the knee as close to the chest as you can without feeling any sharp pain.
3. Using your hands to guide the knew, move the left knee towards the right shoulder. In this position, it’s important to only move the legs and avoid lifting the left hip and the left side of the torso. Hold for 30 seconds; you should feel a stretch on the outside of your left buttock. Then release and straighten the left leg.

For a visual guide to this exercise, play the video above. Do this exercise 3 times in total, and then repeat on the opposite side.

2. Piriformis Figure 4 Stretch

The figure 4 stretch is one of the most widespread exercises for piriformis syndrome. Like the previous exercise, it doesn’t require any previous knowledge or preparation and is easy to do at home. To complete this exercise, follow this step-by-step guide and view the video above:

1. Lie down with the knees bent and the soles of the feet flat on the floor. Use a mat, towel, or carpet to cushion the shoulders, spine, and lower back. 
2. Lift the left leg and place the left ankle on the right leg, slightly above the knee. Let the left knee open to the left so that the two legs together reminisce the number 4. 
3. If your glute and piriformis are really tight, this may be enough for you to feel a stretch in the left buttock area. In that case, just stay in this position for 30 seconds. If you need a deeper stretch, place your hands behind the right thigh and use them to lift the right foot from the floor.
4. In this position, you can draw the legs closer and closer to the heart, until you feel a deep stretch in the left buttock area. Hold for 30 seconds and then release.
5. Repeat the stretch 3-4 times, and then let the right foot land back on the floor and let the legs unravel to the initial position. Switch sides.

3. Sitting Piriformis Stretch

If these previous exercises seemed too complex, and you’re looking for an exercise that will stretch the piriformis without you having to leave your work desk or lie down, this seated stretch is for you. This is the perfect exercise to do while you’re at work or in public. To complete the exercise, follow these steps and view the video guide above:

1. Sit in a chair with the legs shoulder-width apart. 
2. Cross the left ankle over the right knee, allowing the left knee to open and relax, just like we did in the previous stretch. This position alone may already be quite challenging, and you could feel the stretch in the left side already. If so, stay in this position for 30 seconds.

To further deepen the stretch, start slowly leaning forward until you feel a significant but not painful stretch. In this position, it’s important to keep the spine straight as you lean forward with your torso. Avoid rounding the shoulders and the back, as this could worsen the pain. Hold for 30 seconds.
3. Repeat the stretch 3-4 times in total, and then repeat the same steps on the other side.

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