These are stretches I commonly suggest to my clients who present with Piriformis Syndrome. I have used these very successfully myself and continue to do so when I get a recurrence of this condition.
With all these stretches ensure you go into them slowly, hold the stretch without bobbing or rocking and slowly release. You are only looking to take the stretch to the point where you feel a gentle pulling or replicate the symptom – if any other pain occurs or the original pain worsens then stop doing that stretch.
The Seated Piriformis Stretch
The simplest of these is to sit on a chair (dining chair is a good height) with your feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee and slowly start to lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds then gently release. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each side. You may find that one side is more flexible than the other but it is important to always stretch both sides.
The Hip Flexor and Hamstring Stretch
As well as the piriformis muscles it is important to stretch out the opposing muscle groups. This is easiest done with a small knee cushion in front of a chair seat for support. Kneel on the cushion with your left knee and place your right foot in front of you. Keeping your right knee directly over your toes (no further forward) gently slide the left leg backwards until you start to feel a stretch in the front of your thigh/hip. Use the chair or sofa arm to support yourself. This stretch can be extended by raising the arm on the side of the back leg upwards (eg left leg back, left arm reaching up).
Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds and then place both hands on the floor either side of your front foot. Gently rock backwards (keeping your knee on the floor) to stretch out the back (hamstrings) of the forward leg. This is a very deep stretch so go into it slowly and gently. Repeat the whole stretch 2 or 3 times each side.
How often should I do them?
I would suggest trying to do these stretches at least twice a day after you have warmed the muscles up a bit – avoid stretching as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, move a bit first, walk around and get the muscles moving before stretching them out. Always work to your limits and go into each stretch slowly, hold still for 5-10 seconds and come out slowly.
© Natalie Percival 2014