When I was suffering from piriformis syndrome many years ago I tried every piriformis stretch under the sun. Yet, I was always in pain.
I was also experiencing sciatica and intense lower back pain. It seemed like the stretches I was doing only aggravated the pain or gave me very short-lived relief.
The piriformis is a small deep gluteal muscle. It has many important functions (1): it accelerates and decelerates hip external rotation, abduction, and extension.
Despite its size, it can cause debilitating pain that affects the whole hip area and even trigger sciatica.
After years of physiotherapy and following the stretches that were given to me…I was getting nowhere.
If you’ve tried the most common piriformis stretches and don’t know what else to try, then I’m glad you found this post. I want to show you a few new stretches that will gentle release the piriformis, and help you get relief from hip spasms or sciatica.
I’ve gathered 5 effective yet gentle piriformis stretches that’ll work without aggravating the pain.
I also created a PDF with these stretches for your convenience. (Scroll below to download it!)
If you’re noticing that your current piriformis stretches aren’t getting you long-term relief, or even making the pain worse, give the ones below a try.
The reason I prefer these gentle and “indirect” stretches is because… when the piriformis muscle is tight and spasming, doing aggressive stretching only aggravates the pain.
Gentle stretching is what works to help relax the piriformis.
You need to resist the urge to overstretch whenever you feel pain. The stretch reflex will only provide you with short-term relief. But it won’t fix the pain forever.
Before we get started, understand that the piriformis muscle is a deep gluteal muscle and one of its functions is hip stabilization (1). When the muscle is chronically tightening up, it’s a sign of a muscle imbalance and compensation.
Working on releasing the tightness near the piriformis will automatically allow the piriformis to also relax.
This works best when you also pinpoint the weak muscles that are failing to do their job right. Leading to piriformis compensation.
I’ll link to a few glutes strengthening tutorials at the end of this post and if you want to go through a home assessment to discover which muscles are causing this issue you can get started inside Piriformis Control program.
Below are the 5 gentle stretches that are specific for piriformis syndrome pain and sciatica.
I’ll also share a couple of piriformis guides to help you get to the root cause of piriformis pain.
VIDEO + STRETCHES PDF: Scroll below the video for the step-by-step images and exercise instructions of the 5 stretches. Plus the stretches PDF you can download.
5 Stretches For Piriformis Syndrome
Seated Piriformis Leg Cradle Stretch
This is a similar stretch to the sitting piriformis stretch only this one is more gentle and gives you the ability to control the intensity of the stretch.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Keep your back straight. Bring your knee towards your chest. Grab your calf with one hand and your foot with your other hand.
- Hug your knee bringing it closer to your chest to deepen the stretch.
- Switch sides.
- Biceps femoris
- Hamstrings complex
- Gluteus medius
Lying Piriformis Figure 4 Stretch
The first part of this stretch will slowly open up your hips. The second part of this stretch will target the piriformis and glute muscles.
- Lie on the floor and stretch out your body.
- Bend the left leg, open the leg out as you rest the left leg on the right leg right above the right knee.
- Make sure to keep your hips on the floor and avoid rotations.
- Bend your right leg up into a figure 4 position.
- Grab your right thigh and bring it closer to you.
- To deepen the stretch, use your left arm to push the knee further out.
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus maximus
Internal Hip Rotations Stretch
- Lie on your back.
- Slightly bend your knees and open up your legs more than shoulder-width.
- Slowly rotate one hip inward without forcing your knee to touch the floor.
- Return to starting position and slowly bring the other hip inward.
It’s important to not force the rotations. We don’t want big moves here. Focus on the middle part of the movement.
Side Lying TFL Stretch
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
- Tensor fasciae latae
- Lie on your right side. Keep your legs together and stretch out your legs
- Support your body with your arm.
- Make sure to align your joints (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and neck should all create a straight line).
- Bend your left leg and bring in to the front of the right thigh. And make sure your knee is straight.
- Now press up with your hands until your arms are straight.
- You should feel a nice stretch from the side of your back all the way to your TFL.
- Make sure to keep extending your leg to increase the intensity of the TFL stretch.
- Erector spinae
Side Lying Knee Bend
- Lie on your side with your legs straight.
- Rest your hand on your arm.
- Bend your knee slowly.
- Grab your foot with your hand.
- Make sure not to round your back or lean backward.
- Rectus femoris
Recommended Program: Piriformis Control Program.
Below is the full youtube video tutorial to demonstrate the piriformis stretches.
- Avoid these 5 piriformis syndrome exercises
- 10 Piriformis strengthening exercises
- How to fix piriformis syndrome as quickly as possible
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