The piriformis muscle, located in the buttocks, can cause a host of problems. When it spasms, it causes pain in the buttock region and, more significantly, may irritate the nearby sciatic nerve, which travels from the lower back, through the pelvis, and down each leg. When this happens, pain, numbness, and tingling can spread down your buttocks, legs, and even into your feet.
Most often, the piriformis muscle may spasm as the result of injury to the area such as due to exercise, an accident, or constant compression like sitting for long periods of time.
Pain caused by the piriformis muscle is fairly common. Sometimes, the pain may be so incapacitating that it affects daily routines.
Medication may help mask the pain temporarily, but sciatica pain can be difficult to resolve. The best cure may be prevention. Performing piriformis stretches such as those that follow can provide relief to the nerves and muscles in your buttocks and help previous the pain associated with piriformis syndrome.
Supine Piriformis Stretch
Laying down with your feet on the floor and knees bent, cross the right leg over the left, placing your right ankle on your opposite knee. Slowly draw in your left knee toward your chest. You may need to use your hands behind the left knee for additional support and stretch. You may feel a deep stretch through your gluteus muscles and even in the low back (lumbar) region. Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds then repeat on the other side.
Standing Piriformis Stretch
This is similar to the supine piriformis stretch, but done while in a standing position. It is perfect to perform during a quick break at the office. While standing, let the ankle of the right leg rest above the left knee. Do not place your leg directly on top of your knee, as you could put pressure on the delicate ligaments there. Slowly lower your hips as if you were going to sit. If you begin to lose your balance, lean forward and reach your arms out in front of you. Be sure to keep your spine as straight as possible. Hold for 10-15 seconds then repeat on the other side.
Hip Extension Exercise
While on all fours, place your hands directly below your shoulders, and your knees directly below your waist. Center yourself on your left leg as you lift your right leg into a fire hydrant pose (yes, like a dog at a fire hydrant). Keeping your knee bent, slowly lower your leg back to the original position. Do this 3-5 times on one side, then switch and repeat on the other side.
These exercises are meant to stretch the muscles of the lower body and help release pressure in the area of the piriformis muscle. If you experience pain even after these stretches, it may be time to visit your orthopedic doctor.
The physicians and spinal specialists at the Spine Academy of Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland can help maintain or restore the health and strength of your back. Call (410) 644-1880 today or submit our online form to request an appointment.