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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman



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More Training Info > Piriformis Stretches

Piriformis Stretches
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS

If you suffer from any tingling or numbness sensations that run from the lower back to your buttocks, sometimes even radiating down the leg and/or into the foot, you may find relief in stretching the piriformis muscle.

The piriformis is located deep in the hip and close to the sciatic nerve. The term “piriformis syndrome” is used whenever the piriformis muscle becomes tight or inflamed, which can cause irritation or pinching of the sciatic nerve.

Stretching the piriformis muscle can help relieve discomfort along the sciatic nerve. Try performing the following three stretches for the piriformis and gluteal muscles to help decrease the painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve and increase comfortable range of motion about the hip joint.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

To get into position to stretch your right hip, start in a sprinter's stance with both hands under your shoulders and your left leg extended behind you, with the right foot tucked underneath your chest. Slide your right foot toward your left hip until you can lower body onto your right foot as shown with right hip resting on the floor. Press your chest forward, keeping a hinged position at the hip, and as you feel comfortable doing so, lean chest downward as shown until chest rests on knee. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat other side.


Figure 4

Figure 4

Lie on your back, legs extended along the floor, right arm resting on the floor straight out to the side. Bring your right knee in toward your chest and very gently clasp the knee with your left hand, then gradually pull the knee over toward the floor, keeping right arm and shoulder flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch in the hip, lower back and obliques, as well as the right pectorals and shoulder. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat other side.


Wall Hip Stretch

Wall Hip Stretch

Lie on your back close to a wall with your buttocks almost touching the wall. Place one ankle across the other knee and straighten the other leg up until it rests against the wall. Slowly drag the foot down the wall to allow the wall to help you stretch the hip as shown. As the lower leg against the wall reaches a position perpendicular to the wall, relax upper torso and gently push against the elevated knee to open up the hip. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat other side.


Include these stretches or this optional piriformis stretch at the end of any strength, pack carrying, or cardiovascular workout as part of a cool down to restore flexibility and return muscles to their normal length. For more information on sciatica unrelated to piriformis syndrome, please see http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/overview-sciatica-exercises.



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