Meet your piriformis, a muscle that is found deep within the buttocks, right behind your gluteus maximus. The muscle also connects the femur to the spine and allows for tremendous flexibility throughout the hips. This is the muscle you use to rotate your toes outward.
Under the piriformis is the sciatic nerve. Sometimes, as the result of injuries or other causes, the sciatic nerve will pass through the piriformis muscle, limiting mobility and causing immense pain.
Whether you are suffering from sciatica or piriformis syndrome or a combination of issues, stretching can help relieve the pain. Gentle stretches assist with accelerating recovery and will reduce inflammation.
Here are 5 stretches and exercises that relieve sciatic nerve pain:
1. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
Here is one of the best stretches to warm up the hips and spine while relieving pressure on the low back.
- Lie supine on the floor.
- Bend the right knee into your chest and hold onto it with your hands.
- Start to turn towards the left side, propping yourself up on the left hip. Let the right knee drop towards the floor. Keep your shoulders on the ground.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds then return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.
2. Sitting Adductor Stretch
If you cannot sit comfortably with your legs outstretched, you can bend your legs, bringing the soles of the feet together.
- Sit on the floor. Stretch your legs out on either side of you, forming a wide open V.
- Tilt the upper body slightly forward. Lengthen the spine.
- Keep leaning so your elbows can drop to the floor. You will feel a stretch in the pelvis.
Hold for 10-20 seconds before releasing.
3. Side Lying Clam Exercise
Build strength while stretching.
- Laying on one side (preferably your weaker hip on top), extend one arm on the ground above your head for stability.
- Bend your knees, bringing the feet in line with the spine.
- Ensure your hips are stacked and spine is long.
- While keeping the heels together, open the top knee while maintaining stillness in the bottom one. Open and close several times (15 reps).
Repeat on the opposite side if you want.
4. Buttocks Stretch (Pigeon Pose)
Pigeon pose comes from yoga and is a great way to stretch out the whole leg, including the piriformis and psoas.
- On the ground in a tabletop position, bring your right leg forward so the shin is diagonal and the thigh and knee are pointing forward.
- Shoot the opposite leg straight back. Flatten the tops of the feet to the ground.
- You can either keep your chest lifted or walk your hands out past your front knee, lowering your chest to the ground.
Hold this pose for about 30 seconds before returning to the start position to begin on the opposite side, if possible.
5. Seated Piriformis Stretch
Do you have limited flexibility? Or maybe your sciatica is acting up while you sit at your desk? This seated piriformis stretch is perfect for you.
- Sitting in a chair, keep your spine long. Cross your right leg over the left knee, forming a figure 4.
- Bend slightly forward, still maintaining a straight spine. You should feel the stretch in the back and hips.
Hold for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
These 5 stretches will help relieve sciatic nerve pain. Do them at anytime throughout the day, and you will eventually note less pain. Just remember that you must be patient and gentle with yourself during this process. Do not overdo the stretching, because that can make you feel worse.