The Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis muscle attaches at the front of the side of the sacrum (tail bone), and then travels down and out to the top of the femur. It’s actions vary depending on the position of the leg relative to the hip. It is important in the shifting of weight during a walk or run as well as in counterbalancing the pull of the more powerful gluteus muscles during complicated hip motion.
Due to its position underneath the larger muscles of the hip, common anatomical variations, and the way it interfaces with the sciatic nerve, it is a muscle that is prone to a great deal of irritation.
And so, we present to you a few variations on the figure 4 stretch;
This stretch is performed while lying on your back. First, bend your knees bringing your feet as close as is comfortable to your body. Then, bring one ankle up, across the opposite knee. Finally, reach around the leg that is still resting on the ground and pull it and the resting ankle towards your torso until you feel a stretch in the back of the hip of the leg that has the crossed ankle.
Alternately, this stretch can be performed from a chair. With your legs resting on the ground, begin by bringing one ankle to rest on the opposite knee. Then, bending at the hip, lower your torso until you feel a stretch in the back of the hip with the crossed ankle.
With both variations it is important that the leg of the crossed ankle is within 90 degrees of the torso otherwise the anatomy of the piriformis will defeat the stretch and while you may feel a stretch in the hip it will not be the piriformis that you are feeling.
NOTE: As with any stretch, if you feel any pain at any point please discontinue the stretch. First warm up the hips and low back with gentle hip circles in both directions to increase the range of motion and to prepare the tissue. Make sure that the stretches are being held for a minimum of 30 seconds. It does take this long for change to occur. Repeating 3 times and always both sides.