If you suffer from any tingling or numbness sensation that runs from the lower back to your buttocks, sometimes even radiating down the leg and/or into the foot, you may find relief in stretching the piriformis muscle.
The piriformis is located deep in the hip and close to the sciatic nerve. The term “piriformis syndrome” is used whenever the piriformis muscle becomes tight or inflamed, which can cause irritation or pinching of the sciatic nerve.
Stretching the piriformis muscle can help relieve discomfort along the sciatic nerve. Try performing one or more of the following stretches for the piriformis and gluteal muscles to help decrease the painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve and increase the comfortable range of motion about the hip joint.
Performance of the Pigeon Pose.
To get into position to stretch your right hip, start in a sprinter’s stance with both hands under your shoulders and your left leg extended behind you, with the right foot tucked underneath your chest. Slide your right foot toward your left hip until you can lower your body onto your right foot as shown, with your right hip resting on the floor. Press your chest forward, keeping a hinged position at the hip, and as you feel comfortable doing so, lean your chest downward as shown until it rests on your knee. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.
Incline Bench Pigeon
If the move above is difficult or uncomfortable, try a variation with an adjustable incline bench set at the lowest incline, about 30 degrees. Position your left foot in the crease of the bench and rest your left knee against the inclined seat. Straighten the back leg (it’s okay if the heel comes off the floor) and keep your torso vertical. You will also get a great stretch in the hip flexor of the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.
Performance of Figure 4.
Lie on your back, legs extended along the floor, right arm resting on the floor straight out to the side. Bring your right knee in toward your chest and very gently clasp the knee with your left hand, then gradually pull the knee over toward the floor, keeping your right arm and shoulder flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch in the hip, lower back, and obliques, as well as the right pectorals and shoulder. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.
Perform the following stretch either at the beginning (i.e. the active version) in your warm-up or at the end (the static version) as part of a relaxing cooldown. This stretch is particularly helpful for hikers, mountaineers, climbers, runners, and skiers.
Performance of the Kneeling Piriformis stretch.
To stretch your right hip, start in a kneeling position as shown. Bring your right ankle to rest directly behind the bend in your left knee, keeping right angles to both knees. Move your right hand off farther to the right and hold onto the right foot with your left hand so you can add more resistance to the stretch. Simultaneously shift both hips and shoulders smoothly to the right until you feel a stretch in the outer part of your right hip and down the outer portion of the thigh.
Avoid lateral flexion or rotation of the pelvis or trunk. Reverse and repeat for the left hip. To include in an active warm-up, perform rhythmically, shifting hips right and left and holding for a second or two in the stretched position 8-10 times. For a static stretch as part of a cool down, hold the end position for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.