The piriformis muscle is located deep in the buttock, and connects the sacrum to the top of the femur, or thigh bone. Its function is to roll the leg out to the side. Piriformis syndrome is pain deep in the buttock caused when the piriformis muscle traps the sciatic nerve. Symptoms include pain deep in the buttock, which often radiates up into the low back or down the leg along the path of the nerve.
The piriformis muscle can become too short and tight because of overuse and repetitive motion, direct trauma or a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for long periods of time keeps the piriformis muscle shortened. Running on hard or uneven surfaces, in poor-fitting shoes, or running with your toes turned out can irritate the piriformis.
While the pain is acute, rest for the first 48 to 72 hours. Use ice packs for 20 minutes several times a day to reduce pain and inflammation. Continuing to exercise in pain can make further injure your muscles. After the pain begins to subside, you can begin a program of stretching and strengthening your muscles.
Seated and Supine Stretch
Sit in a chair with both legs in front of you and feet on the floor. Cross the ankle of the affected leg over the opposite knee. Wrap your arms around your knee and foot, as if cradling the lower leg, and lift them until you feel a stretch deep in the buttock. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat at least four times. Perform the same move on your back. Lie on your back with both legs straight. Bring the knee of the affected leg to your chest and then push it over to the opposite shoulder with your hands until you feel a stretch deep in the buttock. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat at least four times.
Fire Log Pose
Sit on the floor and bend your left knee. Lay the outside of your left leg on the floor and position your left lower leg in front of you. Lift your right leg off the floor, bend the knee and lay the outside of your lower right leg on top of the inside of your left lower leg. When you look down you should see a triangle-shaped space between your pubis and your stacked lower legs. Sit tall and breathe in this pose for up to a minute before switching sides.
On your hands and knees, bring the knee of the affected leg forward, swing the knee out and bring the foot up toward the opposite side so the lower leg is at a right angle to your body. Stretch the other leg out straight behind you and lean your body into the bent leg, keeping your spine straight. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, and repeat at least four times. Don't do this stretch if it hurts your hip or knee.