Effectively Release The Piriformis Muscle (At Home)

This is a complete piriformis muscle release guide.

I’m going to show you the 3-step process to effectively release the piriformis muscle using self-massage with a massage ball and the foam roller.

You’ll also learn when to implement stretching (only if needed) and key tips to follow to avoid making the pain worse. 

Below you’ll find video tutorials of the release, as well as 9 hip stretches you can include in your recovery. Scroll down to find them!

Don’t get overwhelmed. I’ll explain everything in simple terms. You just have to follow along!

Feeling overwhelmed about how to fix piriformis syndrome? Here’s a simple home recovery program that’ll teach you all the techniques I used to fix this frustrating chronic condition and remain pain-free for over 4 years.

Living With Piriformis Syndrome

I know that piriformis syndrome can be a huge pain. And sometimes, it feels like nothing you try is working.

Please understand that you can fix this imbalance. The reason you’re probably still in pain is because you’re overwhelmed by so much information…

…You’re confused and not sure why relief is short-lived…

…And as a result, you’re doing everything at once to see what’ll work.

Believe me, once you get to the root cause of this pain, recovery will be quick and long-lasting.

Make sure to save this guide for your reference or even print it out! (the videos are also detailed and will show you exactly how to perform self-massage and deep tissue release.

Recommended Program: Piriformis Control Program.

Piriformis Tightness

Before I lay out the 3-step process to release the piriformis muscle. We need to figure out if the piriformis muscle needs to be released. If the muscle is weak and already elongated, you shouldn’t be stretching it, even if it “feels” tight.

Static stretching, in particular, relaxes and elongates the muscle. It certainly has its place in your recovery plan.

But it should only be used when needed to restore a muscle to its normal length (not make it longer than it should be).

The goal is to maintain proper muscle tension. I’ll explain this a little further in Step 2.

This piriformis syndrome guide will take you through assessment exercises to figure out if the piriformis is indeed tight and short (and needs stretching), or weak and long (and does not need stretching)…

… If the muscle doesn’t need to be released, you can still release the glute tightness with the massage ball as I explain below (I’ll link to the one I personally use).

The link will open up in a new tab so you can read through this post first.

I’ll also link to the guide at the end of this post for your reference.

Step 1: Inhibit The Overactive Muscles

Before I do any activation or strengthening exercises, I first go through self-myofascial release to inhibit the tight and overactive muscles. Here’s why:

When it comes to hip pain or piriformis pain… the hip flexors play a big role in proper recovery.

Tight and overactive hip flexors, which include the quads, the psoas, and the TFL, impede the glutes to fully contract.

This is called altered reciprocal inhibition: Please stick with me. I’m going to explain this in simple terms because it’s important to understand.

Altered reciprocal inhibition means certain muscles work in opposition. For example, the biceps and triceps perform opposing movements.

When one of these muscles is tight and overactive, it inhibits (hinders) the opposing muscle during movement. Thus, the opposing muscle neural drive is decreased during movement.

Here’s an example of this happening with the hips…

…Strengthening and balancing the glutes is always part of piriformis syndrome recovery.

Tight and overactive hip flexors (controls the flexion movement) will inhibit and affect the gluteus muscles.

Specifically, the gluteus maximus which is the biggest muscle in the body and controls the hip extension movement.

To properly and fully activate the gluteus maximus, it’s important to work on the hip flexors first.

Again, always start with self-myofascial release to make sure you’re releasing the tight overactive muscles that can interfere with full activation of the muscles that you want to activate. 

Key Muscles To Inhibit First:

Foam rolling disclaimer: Do not roll on the joints or the spine. Make sure you’re always rolling on the muscle only.

If you feel tingling or numbness, get off the roller immediately. That’s a sign that you’re pressing on a nerve and that’s not the goal of foam rolling. We only roll muscles.

Step 2: Release The Piriformis Muscle

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. I only mention products I personally use and recommend…and if you purchase from Amazon using my affiliate link, I get a small commission. You won’t pay more!

The best way to release the piriformis (in my opinion) is by using a massage ball. Below, you’ll find the full tutorial on how to use the massage ball. (Below step 3)

You can control the pressure and easily move around to release the gluteus medius as well.

If you’re in a lot of pain right now, use the massage ball instead of a foam roller. 

The video below includes a full tutorial on how to do that.

I know you’ll see a lot of people online recommending to sit on the roller and perform a deep tissue piriformis release. Be careful if you choose to do that.

The reason I don’t recommend that is because I lived with piriformis syndrome for 7 years and that technique never worked for me.

Piriformis muscle release with foam roller

I remember ending up with more pain.

I prefer to use the massage ball because you can control the pressure and gently work around the piriformis area.

This helps release the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, which I find gave me better results.

If the piriformis is very sensitive and flaring up, apply very gentle pressure.

If you insist on using the foam roller for self-massage, make sure to start with the hamstrings and quads first, and see how you feel from there.

Place the roller underneath the glutes and gently roll around the piriformis area. Always follow your body and see if this technique works specifically for you.

Feeling overwhelmed about how to fix piriformis syndrome? Here’s a simple home recovery program that’ll teach you all the techniques I used to fix this frustrating chronic condition and remain pain-free for over 4 years.

Step 3: Stretching The Piriformis

I’ve personally suffered from piriformis syndrome for years before restoring my hips and feeling ‘normal’ again.

I’ve done all the typical stretches found online. I was constantly searching (just like you)… Looking for that magic stretch that’d fix it for good.

This is why I don’t want to just throw a bunch of stretches at you without explaining how they work and when to use them.

It’s not that the stretches are bad or don’t work, but when used mindlessly, they can contribute to more weakness and pain. This is why I always start by self-myofascial release before stretching.

Related: 5 gentle stretches for the piriformis without aggravating the pain.

How Static Stretching Works

Static stretching is a lengthening technique used to relax and decrease the overactivity of a muscle. Static stretching increases the range of motion allowing the joint to move.

When a joint is free to move, the muscles that move that joint are also free to move it.

To get the most out of static stretching, you want to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.

Individuals over 65 years old get better results holding each stretch for up to 60 seconds.

Before we get to the piriformis release, it’s important to get familiar with the anatomy of the piriformis…

piriformis muscle

Why stretching comes after self-massage and self-myofascial release?

Simply because we can’t release trigger points with stretching. 

Stretching should always come after self-myofascial release.

You want to release any active or latent trigger points before elongating the muscle.

Trigger points don’t get released through stretching (think of it like creating a knot using an elastic band and then stretching that band out).

Full Piriformis Muscle Release Tutorial (Self-Massage and Stretching)

Below is a step-by-step tutorial to teach you how to properly release the piriformis muscle specifically.

I also included a list of hip stretches you can do after deep tissue release. Please don’t do all of them. Pick 1-2 to start with. Remember…less is more.

Fast Piriformis Muscle Release (Self-Massage And Stretching)

Do All Muscles Need Stretching?

Not all muscles respond the same way to stretching (this is important). The same static stretching program can be applied to two different muscles and results won’t be the same.

Certain muscles don’t respond favorably to static stretching, showing no increase in range of motion(1).

Muscles work in a synergistic manner to maintain proper posture and movement patterns:

Tonic muscles: made of at least 51% slow-twitch muscle fibers and are more resistant to fatigue.  When over-used or misused, these muscles tend to tighten and shorten.

For example, the iliopsoas muscle (hip flexor).

Phasic muscles: made of at least 51% fast-twitch muscle fibers (explosive) and fatigue easily compared to the tonic muscles.

They are prone to weakness when underused or misused. The glute muscles are primarily phasic muscles.

If you have extremely tight hip flexors (and you don’t know it) and keep stretching the glutes, you’ll be contributing to more hip weakness and imbalances.

Even if it feels good at the moment, relief is temporary.

Learn more about why stretching doesn’t work or makes the pain worse.

9 Stretches To Release The Piriformis Muscle

Sitting Piriformis Stretch

Sitting piriformis stretch
Sitting Piriformis Stretch

This stretch targets the piriformis muscle and can be done at home or when you’re sitting and can’t stand.

However, make sure you’ve identified piriformis tightness before doing this stretch.

90/90 Hip Stretch

90/90 Hip Stretch

This is my favorite glutes stretch. It is safe, gentle and not very aggressive.

You can use this stretch after you release the hip flexors. It targets the gluteus medius, piriformis, and gluteus maximus.

Pigeon Stretch

Pigeon Stretch

This is an advanced version of the 90/90 stretch. I recommend you slowly ease into this one. If you’re feeling pain after this stretch, skip it altogether. There are other ways to release your hips without triggering pain.

Gluteus Maximus And Piriformis Stretch

Gluteus Maximus and Piriformis stretch

This stretch targets the piriformis muscle and the gluteus maximus.

You can control the intensity by bringing your torso closer to your legs for a deeper stretch or away for a more gentle stretch.

Supine Piriformis Stretch

Supine Piriformis Stretch

This is another great piriformis stretch you can do lying down on your back.

You can increase the intensity of this stretch by pushing against the knee of the hip being stretched (as demonstrated).

Erector Spinae / Gluteus Medius Stretch

If you have an anterior pelvic tilt, this stretch will help you restore your hips by stretching the erector spinae.

An overactive erector spinae contributes to an exaggerated lower back arch and pulls the pelvis out of alignment.

Hip Openers

Hip Openers

This is a great stretch to open up your hips and release the inner thighs as well. Only use this stretch when not in pain.

Sitting Hip Crossovers

Sitting Hip Crossovers

This stretch targets the glute muscles and helps increase joint range of motion. You can increase the intensity of the stretch by pushing against the upper knee.

Hip Flexors Stretch

Hip Flexors Stretch

I recommend you release your hip flexors on a daily basis. Especially if you spend hours sitting and driving. I have a step-by-step post on releasing the hip flexors here.

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Piriformis muscle release technique self massage and stretches
Coach Sofia
  • I think I will benefit from your exercises. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge.

  • Hi Sofia
    I’ve been told I have acute gluteal tendonopathy after total hip replacement 4 months ago. I was given a few isometric exercises to do for the next 2 weeks. Is it normal to feel the tendon twitch during these exercises and then tightness after exercises?

  • Hi Sofia,

    Thank you! These are not easy but we’re very helpful for someone like me. Not very flexible and I’m an amputee about the knee who was recently diagnosed with sciatica.

    • You’re very welcome! please be gentle with the stretches. Don’t do ALL of them, these were just a list of all the stretches so just pick 2-3 to start with for now! All the best 🙂

  • It was like reading about myself, finally after all these years & money wasted on drs guessing I have found someone like myself. Cant wait to do these exercises i already do a few of them.

    • Hi Serena! I’m glad this post resonated with you! Yess it’s soo frustrating when we get stuck in the medical system, and get no results. Definitely, check out the blog, there are SO many posts fir exercises, and treatments in general. I wish you all the best in your healing journey 🙂

  • Hi there. What starting modifications would you recommend (for your lower back/pirformis stretches) for a person less flexible and somewhat larger than yourself?

    • Hi Vanessa! To start, I would suggest the seated stretch which doesn’t require great flexibility. The next great stretch would be #4 in the video, where you get on your back and get your leg towards you. I don’t stretch too often to be honest. I have found that deep tissue release using a massage ball or foam roller gives better benefits. As I stated in the post, stretching would generally not “solve” the back pain or piriformis problem but only provide temporary relief.
      Quick tip: I’ve used a tennis ball against the wall to release the piriformis muscle and it works like magic!

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