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How to Release the Piriformis Muscle

by
author image Linda Tarr Kent
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.
How to Release the Piriformis Muscle
A tight piriformis interferes with abdominal training. Photo Credit IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images

The piriformis muscle is one of the most irritated spots on a human body. It attaches to the outside of each hip and to your sacrum, the spine’s lowest section. Its job is to turn your leg outward. The major issue for many people is that the sciatic nerve runs through or under the piriformis muscle. If a person’s piriformis is too tight, it can lead to pinching and sciatica-like symptoms in the affected leg, advises chiropractor John Huynh of Mountain View Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Bonney Lake, Washington. When the piriformis irritates the sciatic nerve, it leads to pain in the buttocks as well as referring pain along the sciatic nerve felt down the back of a person’s thigh or in the lower back.

Step 1

Stretch the piriformis. This is the first step in releasing the muscle, advises Huynh. Lie on your back. If you need to release the muscle on your right side, bend your right knee, bring it across your body, and point the knee toward your left shoulder. Move the bent knee back to the starting position. Put your hands under your bent knee and bring it to your chest. You will feel a stretch in your buttock region--stretching the piriformis. Use progressive piriformis stretching. Start with five seconds, and gradually work up to 60 seconds of sustained stretch. Repeat several times throughout the day. If your pain is on the left, utilize the same procedure on the left side of the body.

Step 2

Take a tennis ball, place it under your piriformis and lay on it. This will work out a trigger point, or a knot within the muscle. Lay on the ball for 30 seconds. Relax for one minute. Repeat the process four to five times, Huynh advises.

Step 3

Utilize a foam roller. This also can work out a trigger point. If you need to release the piriformis on the left side, start by lying on your left side and placing your left elbow on the mat or floor. This will stabilize your upper body, advises Desk Jockey Fitness. Place the foam roller beneath the back side of your left hip, under your piriformis. Roll back and forth to release the tension in the muscle, says Huynh. Do the same thing on the right side if that is where you are experiencing pain.

Step 4

Treat other biomechanical problems simultaneously for best results and to prevent future problems. For example, overpronation of the foot can contribute to the problem. Pronation happens as the foot rolls inward and the arch of the foot flattens. Leg-length discrepancies also are commonly associated with piriformis problems, and can be corrected with use of orthotics, according to Dynamic Chiropractic magazine. Prescription orthotics can be obtained by visiting a chiropractor and undergoing a gait analysis. Stretching may need to be combined with physical therapy for issues like overpronation.

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