Piriformis stretches can create space where the impingement of the sciatic nerve causes pain and discomfort. Crossing one ankle over the opposite knee in any position can facilitate a piriformis stretch that might help to alleviate this type of distress.
The piriformis muscle is one of three muscles (psoas major and gluteus maximus are the others) connecting the legs to the spine. It inserts on the outside of the thigh bone and crosses the back of the pelvis to attach to the front portion of the sacrum, the triangular bone between the two hip bones. The two hip bones and the sacrum make up the pelvis.
The sciatic nerve forms directly in front of the piriformis muscle after five nerve roots travel from the base of the spine cord to meet up at the piriformis. If the piriformis muscle goes into spasm or is unduly tight it can press on the sciatic nerve creating a pain in the butt that often radiates or shoots down the leg.
Stretching the piriformis muscle can often create an environment that relieves the symptoms of both piriformis syndrome and sciatica but a piriformis stretch often isn’t enough. In most cases the piriformis muscle needs to be released out of its chronic tension and permanent changes need to be made to the way we walk and stand. Only when we alter the patterns that led to these issues permanently can we hope to have them go away for good.
That being said, while everyone should learn to walk correctly, here is a piriformis stretch that can diminish your suffering in the short term.
Piriformis Stretch Sitting On A Chair
- Sit upright in a chair with a small arch in your lower spine.
- Cross the right ankle over the left knee. Flex the right foot (push through the heel).
- Begin to extend forward keeping the natural arches in the back (meaning don’t round forward and collapse your chest).
- If the lower back begins to round backwards, or the head moves faster than the rest of the trunk, stop. You have gone too far.
- Go only to a point where you can keep the curve in the lower back and breathe here.
Stay for ten or fifteen breaths. Repeat up to five times.