Pain in the buttocks can make it difficult to walk, run and stand. Exercises for buttock pain may offer relief from aches caused by injury, arthritis or repetitive movement. The best ones are those that strengthen the glutes as well as the muscles surrounding the joints in your hips and lower back.
Causes of Buttock Pain
A major cause of buttock pain is piriformis syndrome. This condition develops when your sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, is pinched by a muscle deep inside your hip known as the piriformis. The piriformis is responsible for hip external rotation, extension and abduction.
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Harvard Health Publishing explains that the piriformis is positioned in an easily irritable place — attaching the lowermost vertebrae of your back with the upper part of your leg. It travels right through where the sciatic nerve passes, so it can put pressure on this nerve, leading to pain in the buttocks. The pain may also travel down your leg and even into your feet.
Read more: 17 Moves to Tone and Shape Your Booty
Sciatica may also result from a herniated disk in your spine or spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. Either of these issues can cause compression of the sciatic nerve or other spinal nerves and trigger buttock pain, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
Arthritis of the hip is another possible cause of buttock pain. If you have arthritis, talk to your doctor about treatment options that do often include exercise as well as medications and other lifestyle changes.
If you experience pain the day after a workout, such as a long run or "leg" day, your buttock pain may be the sign of a muscle strain. In this case, adequate rest may be your best path of treatment.
Read more: Sciatica Stretches to Avoid
Symptoms of Buttock Pain
Pain in the buttocks is often due to sciatica, a pinching or compression of the sciatic nerve caused by piriformis syndrome or irregularities in the vertebrae of your spine. You may feel pain when you sit down and avoid putting weight on one side of your cheek. Muscle spasms are common too.
In severe cases, you may have excruciating, shooting pain that makes it nearly impossible to stand or walk. The pain may become more severe when you move from standing to sitting or vice versa. The burning sensations can extend down the back of the leg. You may also have numbness and tingling.
A review published in the European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology in August 2017 reports that buttock pain, pain aggravated by sitting, tenderness near the attachment of the sciatic nerve and pain with any action that activates your piriformis muscle indicates you have piriformis syndrome.
Buttock pain can last for a short time, but it may also become chronic — depending on the cause. Piriformis syndrome cannot be prevented, but exercising, stretching and avoiding prolonged sitting may help alleviate its symptoms.
1. Exercises for Buttock Pain
The goal of exercise is to improve mobility of the sacroiliac joints and strengthen the hip abductors, muscles that move the hips away from the body, such as the following hip abduction exercise suggested by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
The National Health Service of Britain also recommends targeting the muscles of your back and abdomen. Physical therapy is often recommended for buttock pain and may include the following exercises and low-impact activities, such as walking.
Read more: The Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes
Move 1: Hip Abduction
- Lie on your left side with the hips and legs stacked. Bend the left leg to create stability.
- Raise your right leg to about a 45-degree angle, keeping the knee straight but not locked.
- Hold for about five counts at the top and then lower down.
- Repeat eight to 12 times and switch sides.
Move 2: Spine Extension
- Get into an all-fours position on the mat with the hands under the shoulders and your knees under the hips.
- Extend your right arm forward past your ear and your left leg back, as if to make a footprint on an invisible back wall.
- Hold both limbs parallel to the ground for five to 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Do 10 to 12 repetitions.
Move 3: Back Extension
- Lie on your abdomen with your legs extended on the floor behind you.
- Place your forearms alongside your ribs, elbows bent at your sides. Maintain a straight neck.
- Press through your hands to raise your face, chest and shoulders, creating an arch in your back. You'll feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles.
- Hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat eight to 10 times.
2. Stretches for Buttock Pain
Stretching can help buttock pain by relieving a tight piriformis muscle and releasing muscles that surround the hip. The National Health Service recommends doing these stretches every day.
Move 1: Knee-to-Chest
- Lie on your back with your legs extended long on the floor and press your lower back into the floor.
- Bend your right knee and hug it into your chest, holding on to the shin.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the left side.
Move 2: Piriformis Stretch
- Lie on your back, bend your knees and plant both feet on the floor in front of your buttocks.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Thread your right hand through the keyhole of the legs and the left hand outside your left leg to grab your left thigh.
- Draw your bent, crossed legs toward your chest while keeping your low back on the floor.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Move 3: Seated Rotation
- Sit on the floor with your torso perpendicular to the floor and legs straight out in front of you.
- Cross your left leg over your right leg. Rest your left foot outside the right thigh and point your left knee to the ceiling.
- Use your right arm to hug your left leg as you twist to the left.
- Look over your left shoulder to twist farther.
- Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat in the other direction.
When you have severe buttock pain, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms, such as disabling low back pain or fecal incontinence, contact a doctor immediately. They may recommend trigger point injections or prescription medications to help restore your mobility and prevent further injury.
- European Journal of Orthopaedic Injury and Traumatology: "Four Symptoms Define the Piriformis Syndrome: An Updated Systematic Review of Its Clinical Features"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Ask Dr. Rob About Piriformis Syndrome"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Sciatica"
- National Health Servivce: "Exercises for Sciatica"
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Piriformis Stretches to Relieve Piriformis Syndrome"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.