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Release your piriformis to ease that pain in your butt

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Have you ever been sitting for a long time and when you stood up your buttock, usually on one side, was hurting or there was numbness going down the back of your thigh? You probably have a tight piriformis. If you’re not sure what that is, you’re about to learn.

Anatomy of a muscle

The piriformis is a deep hip muscle that lies under the gluteus maximus. In Latin, piriformis means pear-shaped and that is what the muscle looks like. It originates on the front of the sacrum and attaches to the top of the femur. The main functions of the piriformis are to rotate the leg externally when the hip is extended (standing position) and rotate the leg internally when the hip is flexed more than 60 degrees. This muscle is unique in that it performs opposite motions depending on the position of the femur.

Symptoms of tightness

  • Local ache or pain in the buttocks

  • Numbness and pain running down from the back of the thigh to the back of the knee

  • Pain and ache in the small of the back

  • Pain on the outside of the knee - runner's knee

Causes of tightness

Sitting for long periods of time

Flexibility test

Because of the motions of this muscle, there are two flexibility tests

Test #1 (prone):

  1. Lie on your stomach on the floor with your knees together

  2. Bend your right knee 90 degrees

  3. Let the right foot fall to the outside

  4. Keep the left hip on the floor

  5. The angle between your lower leg and the floor shoulder be at least 45 degrees or lower

  6. Repeat other leg

Test #2 (seated):

  1. Sit on a firm chair with your back straight

  2. Put your right ankle on top of your left knee

  3. Let your right knee drop to the outside

  4. Your lower leg should be parallel with the floor

  5. Repeat other leg

  6. Make sure both hip bones stay in contact with the chair

Static release

Static release is the first step to minimize trigger points and adhesions.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor

  2. Cross your right ankle over your left knee

  3. Roll your hips slightly to the left and place a tennis or lacrosse ball under your right hip halfway between the top of your femur and your butt bone

  4. Find a spot with an intensity level of between 5 to 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excruciating)

  5. Hold 30 seconds to 2 minutes until you feel a release or there is just pressure but no pain

  6. Repeat other leg

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