The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep to the gluteus maximus. The sciatic nerve is located in close proximity and in approximately 6% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually bisects the piriformis muscle. The function of the piriformis is to assist in hip rotation and abduction. While this muscle may seem insignificant, it is one of the most common non-discogenic causes of sciatica. Due to the importance of this muscle and its close proximity to the sciatic nerve it is important to maintain strength and flexibility of the piriformis. If this muscle becomes tight it can cause piriformis syndrome which can bring on lower back pain and sciatica. We have found clinically that weakness in the deep extensor muscles of the spine can lead to overuse of the gluteal muscles including the piriformis contributing to piriformis syndrome.
What Causes Tightness in the Piriformis Muscle
The most common causes of tightness in the piriformis muscle include:
- weakness of the muscle
- periods of inactivity
How to Perform the Piriformis Stretch
To help relieve back pain and also to prevent piriformis syndrome one of the most important things you can do is to stretch often and consistently. The best stretch is the piriformis stretch which can be performed by doing the following steps.
- Sit down in a chair keeping your eyes forward
- Cross one leg over the other in a figure 4 configuration while holding the ankle and knee of the top leg each with one hand
- Begin to lean forward while maintaining a neutral spine holding for a count of 10 then returning back to the starting position
- Repeat this for 3 times on each leg
If you are still unsure of how to perform this stretch you can watch the video below where Dr. Raz a physical therapist demonstrates how to correctly perform this stretch. If your back pain continues to persist it is best to be evaluated by a professional to see if you experiencing other underlying conditions. You can do so by scheduling a free consultation with us today.