Piriformis Stretch | Stretch to Relieve Tight Hips or Sciatic Pain

Tight hips are a familiar complaint and often come with associated lower back stiffness. One particular and often painful problem we see as remedial massage therapists is sciatic pain.

piriformiWhat is Sciatica? | Piriformis Stretch

Sciatica is the name given when there is undue pressure on the sciatic nerve which causes pain in the glute and often down into the hamstrings and calf.

What Causes It? | Piriformis Stretch

As with many musculoskeletal problems, there could be several causes for sciatic nerve symptoms. One we see often and are usually fairly easily able to treat as remedial massage therapists is when the piriformis muscle becomes tight and squeezes the sciatic nerve, resulting in the familiar sciatic pain.

Piriformis Muscle

Piriformis is a muscle lying obliquely from the back of the femur, or thigh bone to the sacrum. It’s job is to externally rotate and extend the leg at the hip joint. These actions are often why both sitting and walking can be uncomfortable when you have sciatica. The piriformis often becomes overworked and tight when the other glute muscles around the side of the hip are weak. A tight piriformis muscle is often also seen with a tightness own the outside of the leg in what is called the iliotibial band, or ITB for short.

When the muscle is tight it can constrict the sciatic nerve which runs very close to and in some people even through the muscle belly itself. The compressed nerve can give anything from a dull ache or burning to a more sharp and shooting pain in the glute or eventually radiate pain down into the back of the leg as far as the calf.  

What Can Remedial Massage Do For Sciatica?

Remedial massage works to ease the tightness in muscles, restoring them to their natural length and elasticity. Compression techniques over the piriformis itself are often used to gently stretch the tight tissues and so create improved movement of the hip joint and relieve sciatic pain.

Our remedial massage therapists will also discuss suitable home remedies such as self massage with a spiky ball stretches and strength exercises. One such stretch is shown here.

Instructions:

Standing with something to hold onto for support if needed, place the ankle of one leg across onto the opposite leg above the knee or around the lower part of the thigh.

Bending your support leg, sit your bottom back, keeping your back straight. This stretch needs to be performed by hinging at the hip and not rounding through the lower back.

You are looking to feel a stretch across the back of the glute.

Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds and stop if there is any feeling of pain in the knee*.

Seated version:

To perform a stretch targeting the piriformis muscle, bring the ankle of one leg to sit across onto the opposite leg above the knee or around the lower part of the thigh.

Sit tall so that the lower back does not round.

For people who are very stiff, sitting tall will often be enough to give a good stretch around the back of the glute.

More flexible people may need to lean forward slightly to feel a stretch but make sure that this is done by hinging at the hip and not folding at the waist.

Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds and stop if there is any feeling of pain in the knee*.

*If you feel any pain in your knee with this stretch our massage therapists can show you a modified version. You may also like to try using a spiky massage ball through the area first to relieve tightness and follow this with the stretches as described above.

Melbourne Natural Therapies
Piriformis Stretch
Stretch Library