Beginners Piriformis Syndrome Stretching Routine


Supine Position for Piriformis Syndrome

Woman performing side crunch exercise, hands held to sides of her head, shoulder blades lifted off the floor, left knee bent at right angle and other leg rested across it
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

This exercise sequence is designed especially for beginners who are just getting started addressing piriformis syndrome with stretching. If this is you, congratulations on taking responsibility for your physical well-being and your pain levels! Now let's get started.

As a beginner, you're likely best served by performing stretches in the supine position. The supine position is on your back. In this case, you'll bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, which is called hook-lying.


Warm Up for Your Piriformis Muscle Stretch

Knees to chest may help stretch your low back.
Knees to chest may help stretch your low back.

Start the piriformis stretching routine by warming up your hips in general. This may give you a nice back stretch with which to start the piriformis syndrome stretching progression. 

Piriformis Stretch Program Hip Warm Up

Lie on your back in the supine position and bring first one (bent) knee and then the other up towards your chest. Hug them either at the top of the shins or at the back of your thighs near the knee. Pull towards you.  Stay in this position for 5-30 seconds, and then gently set one knee down, and then the other.


Cross One Knee Over to "Get" The Hip

A woman lies in the supine position and stretches one knee to her chest.
Supine knee to chest stretch. Forgiss

Continue warming up, but this time bring just one knee up towards your chest. (This move is similar to the double knee stretch you did previously.)

Then take the knee that's up over to one side. To "get" the out hip, where the piriformis is located, think about aiming the knee towards the opposite shoulder. The leg that is "standing" will likely be brought over as you do this. You don't need to correct for this — it's normal.

Stay in the stretch for 5-30 seconds and then gently return yourself to the start position.

The distance you'll move the leg will vary according to how tight your piriformis and other hip muscles are, as well as how much pain you experience. Always stay pain-free — i.e., only go so far as you can without strain, soreness or similar muscle-related distress. 

That said, because you are stretching, there's likely going to be a little leeway. Some muscle discomfort is expected or you won't benefit from the stretch, but you shouldn't go so deeply into the move that your sciatica acts up or you experience any type of nerve sensation. 

How to Recognize Nerve Sensations When Performing a Piriformis Stretch

Because the sciatic nerve is located under the piriformis muscle you may get sensations that do not arise from muscle tissue. You need to be more careful of these feelings. They'll probably feel like an electrical sensation of some sort that goes down one leg: Pins and needles, shock, tingling or even burning. You may also experience weakness and/or numbness in one leg. In ​case of any, some or all of these symptoms, back off the exercise and talk to your physical therapist or doctor about what you should do.


Knees to the Side

Woman in tank top and shorts lying on back on blue mat, arms lying straight out at sides, hips twisted to one side, performing side roll
Russell Sadur / Getty Images

To intensify the outer hip stretch, try bringing both knees down to one side. Go only as far as you need to reach an "edge" where you feel something is happening in the muscle, but it's not overwhelming or painful. Stay there between 5 and 30 seconds, then gently return your legs to the original "standing" position.

To intensify further, try piriformis stretching for intermediates.

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