Piriformis stretches can help anyone suffering from back, hip, knee or foot pain.
The piriformis muscles are found right in the middle of the each buttock, deep underneath your glutes.
Piriformis tightness can affect the way your hip moves and thus affect your knee and foot.
Piriformis tightness can also place pressure on the sciatic nerve, which runs directly through the muscle causing tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain through the buttock and down the leg. This is known as piriformis syndrome.
Piriformis tightness can develop in anyone, from the office worker to the keen runner. Piriformis stretches help to relieve tightness in the muscle and pressure on the sciatic nerve and can help reduce back, hip, knee and even foot pain.
There are lots of different ways you can do piriformis stretches. Finding the right one for you will depend on your starting point, for example a middle aged office worker will stretch differently to a young gymnast.
Here you will find loads of different ideas for how to stretch piriformis. Try them out and pick the two that you feel works best for you. Once you’ve found the right ones for you, aim to do them 3 times each, 1-2 times each day. After a couple of weeks, you should start to notice a real improvement.
If you are already pretty flexible i.e. can touch your toes without bending your knees and can comfortably sit crossed legged, then I suggest you start with the piriformis stretches headed in pink. If you feel pretty tight all over, I suggest starting with those in blue.
· Lie on your back with one knee bent with the other leg crossed over on top of the opposite knee
· Pull the knee across your body towards the opposite shoulder until you feel a stretch
· Hold for 30 seconds, gradually drawing your knee further over as you feel your piriformis release
· Keep both hips anchored on the floor – don’t let your body start to roll over
· For an even great stretch, as you draw the knee over let your foot lift up off the opposite knee
· Lie on your back with your knees bent and cross one foot over onto the opposite knee.
· Hold the back of that knee and pull your knee towards your chest until you feel a strong stretch in the middle of your buttocks – that’s your piriformis stretching
· Hold for 30 seconds, gradually drawing your knee closer to you as your piriformis muscle stretches
· Lie on your back with one knee slightly bent and grasp the other knee and foot with your hands
· Pull your foot and knee up and over to bring the knee across towards the opposite shoulder
· Hold for 30 seconds, gradually bringing the knee and foot further over
· Avoid rocking over onto your side, keep your lower back anchored to the floor
· Sit on a firm chair and cross one foot over onto the opposite knee
· Draw the top knee across to the opposite shoulder keeping your foot resting on the bottom knee
· Hold for 30 seconds, gradually increasing the stretch by drawing the knee further over
· Try not to slump back but aim to sit up straight to increase the stretch
· Sit in a firm chair and cross one foot over on top of the opposite knee
· Slowly lean forwards until you feel your piriformis stretching
· Hold for 30 seconds gradually trying to lean further forwards
· You can increase the stretch further by either pushing down through the crossed knee or leaning across to the opposite side
· Sit on top of a firm foam roller and cross your foot onto the opposite knee
· Lean over slightly towards the crossed knee until you feel a stretch
· Then gently roll backwards and forwards slightly on the roller feeling the extra pressure through the piriformis
· Spend 1-2 minutes doing this and repeat
If you don’t have a foam roller, try using a tennis ball instead. Sit with the tennis ball under the middle of your buttock and do the exercise as described. The pressure through the ball with target the stretch to the piriformis
· Stand facing a table or high stool and place one leg up as shown
· Lean forwards slightly, using the table for balance, until you feel your piriformis stretching
· Hold for 30 seconds gradually leaning further forwards
· You can increase the stretch by bending your standing knee and doing a mini squat
A tight piriformis muscle often goes hand in hand with hamstring tightness, particularly in men. Adding in hamstring stretches too can really help to reduce piriformis pain and tightness.
Muscle tightness often develops in response to muscle weakness – if a muscle is weak, it can’t provide enough support so the surrounding muscles gradually tighten up to try and provide the missing support.
So another really important element of rehab with piriformis tightness is to strengthen the main stabiliser of the hip, gluteus medius. If you stretch muscles without strengthening the stabilisers you can actually end up with more problems as you take away what support the joint has.
Page Last Updated: 2020-10-02
Next Review Due: 2022-10-02