The irritation of the sciatic nerve causes hip and lower back pain, which spreads downwards to the limbs and feet. It is estimated that 4 out of 10 people will develop sciatica or irritation of this nerve at some point in life. The sciatic nerve is located deep in the buttock, beneath the piriformis muscle, so its constriction and swelling can also cause sciatica pain and irritations.
The piriformis muscle connects the top of the femur to the spine, and it’s the main one that supports the outward movement of the hip, upper leg, and foot. The sciatic nerve can sometimes pass through this muscle and thus cause sciatica symptoms, otherwise known as piriformis syndrome, characterized by pain in the lower back and hips, poor movement, and balance. Therefore, the main cause of sciatica is the swelling or constriction of the piriformis muscle, but it can also be a result of some other factors as well.
In most cases, it is treated with medications, like aspirin, acetaminophen, or NSAIDs, physical therapy, and surgery. The intense pain is often treated with antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and painkillers. However, if you just numb the symptoms and do nothing about the irritation of the nerve, you will spend your lifetime on medications.
On the contrary, the following piriformis stretches offer incredible effects in the treatment of sciatica pain. Note that you need to warm up before the stretches for a few minutes, and remain within the comfort limits. It is important to consult your spine specialist first. Then you can start with these 10 piriformis stretches for sciatica relief, and you will be surprised by the positive effects!
1. Standing Piriformis Stretch
Stand and put the painful leg over the other leg’s knee, lower the hips toward the floor at a 45-degree angle, while bending the knee of the standing leg, lean forward and extend the arms to be parallel to the ground. With a straight spine, hold for 30-60 seconds, and switch legs.
2. Supine Piriformis Stretch
In a lying position with the knees bent upwards, cross the painful leg over the other by bending it upwards toward your chest. Then, with one hand, grab one knee, and the ankle with the other.
Pull gently toward the shoulder in line with the ankle, and hold for half a minute.
3. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
While lying on the back, with the affected leg bent upward, place the foot near the back of the knee of the other leg. Then, tuck the foot and twist the leg to the opposite side by making the knee face or touch the ground.
Put the arm on the knee, and raise the other in the air. Next, start lowering the other arm toward the opposite direction of the knee, and hold for 20 seconds. Then, switch legs and repeat.
4. Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
With the hands and knees on the ground, drag the affected leg’s foot underneath the trunk and twist it toward the opposite side, close to the hip. The knee should point toward the shoulder.
Then, lower the head in order for the forehead to touch the ground, and lean the forearms on the ground. With a straight pelvis, stretch the other leg behind you, and slightly push the hips towards the ground. Hold for half a minute and make 3 repetitions.
5. Long Adductor (Groin) Stretch
Sitting on the floor, stretch the legs straight out and far apart. Then, slowly tilt the torso forward toward the ground and put the hands on the floor next to each other. Lean forward in an attempt to touch the elbows to the ground, and hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
6. Hip Extension Exercise
With the hands and knees on the ground, and the hands aligned with the shoulders, tilt the weight off the painful leg and elevate the leg upward toward the ceiling. Slowly lower it, and make 15 repetitions.
7. Side Lying Clam Exercise
You should lay on the side, so the affected leg is on top. Then, bend the legs backward to get an L shape, but one foot should remain over the other and the legs should be parallel to each other.
Next, lift the top knee upward, and slowly return it. Make 15 repetitions.
8. Seated Stretch
You should start by sitting on a chair, with the affected leg over the other leg’s knee. Then, bring the chest forward and bend forward a bit, and hold for a few breaths. Then, try to bend a bit more, and remain like this for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
9. Short Adductor (Inner Thigh) Stretch
Sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together in front of the pelvis. With the opposite hands, hold the ankles, push downward with the knee in order to touch the ground with them, and hold for half a minute.
Release and in the next 30 second round, gently flutter the legs in that position (like a butterfly).
10. Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
Lying on the ground with the legs flat and the back straight, bend the painful leg upward, and put the foot on the outer side of the other leg, close to the knee.
With the other leg, pull the knee of the painful leg across the midline of the body, and hold for 30 seconds. Make 3 repetitions.