The importance of Stretching The Piriformis Muscle!

Written by: Dr Tami Recesso PT, DPT

Updated on: April 12, 2023

I call the piriformis stretch “YOUR BEST FRIEND”! It’s a simple 30 second stretch that you get to perform three reps each side daily within a pain free range for the rest of your life! This muscle has, in my experience, been the key factor in successfully treating 99% of my patients with low back pain! Why stretching the piriformis muscle gently is critical in alleviating sciatica symptoms and low back pain? The Piriformis muscle is located deep inside the gluteal region of your buttocks. The sciatic nerve runs through it and sometime underneath it depending upon the population.

I describe it as such… If the sciatic nerve was a hose that ran from your back to your foot and the piriformis muscle pinched or constricted the hose what would happen? There would be less or zero water traveling through the hose! Same scenario with the sciatic nerve! There is less sensation and or motor strength control and or nerve related pain along its pathway hence the diagnosis of sciatica. Oftentimes this radicular pain can travel to the foot, the calf, the knee, the thigh and be misdiagnosed as plantar fasciitis, meniscus strain, knee pain, ITB syndrome etc. Oftentimes a patient may present with one or all of the above symptoms and zero low back pain! This is where a skilled physical therapist comes in to decipher the culprit of your pain versus treating the symptoms.

A good start is to trial the piriformis stretch gently along with manual therapy intervention recommendations as provided on my assessment tree for nerve related low back and hip pain. Always obtain approval from your physician prior to initiating any exercises to determine safety.