October 27, 2013

Floor piriformis stretch, for piriformis syndrome and hip pain


This is the easiest of the piriformis stretches, and is part of the set we recommend for the "Daily five".

There are many reasons, but the main one is lifestyle: because so many people spend a significant amount of time sitting (computers, desks and cars are the main culprits), *piriformis syndrome* is on the increase. Google this term. The insidious aspect of this common problem is that it can (in its most severe form) mimic all the neurological deficits caused by lumbar disc disease; disc herniation, for example. Piriformis syndrome is a major cause of sciatica, through the same mechanisms. In any kind of low back pain, its possible contribution needs to be ruled out; this exercise is the place to start this process.

As well, for people doing calisthenics or gymnastics strength training, piriformis is one of the main reasons people cannot do the pike. As well, and more generally, tight hamstrings are often the result of tight piriformis (and piriformis can be related to tight gastrocnemius, too).

*Please note that all Stretch Therapy "stretching" techniques are also strengthening techniques, too, because we use isometric contractions at the end of the current range of movement as part of the process. The contractions strengthen the muscle in the part of the range of movement they are applied in, and if excessive tension is the cause of the pain you are experiencing, the same contractions result in a relaxation of the muscle.*

Read transcription

Hi Kit Laughlin here. We're going to show you an exercise, which in our system is actually a daily five, the last exercise in the daily five, but for the rest of the world is a seated piriformis stretch. Now this one, unlike our advanced piriformis stretch, which we have on one of the other YouTube clips, this one stretches the greater trochanter end of piriformis. So in combination, they actually allow you to stretch the whole thing.

So we start like this, I've got this leg folded across like this and this other leg goes across like this. And the most important thing by far, this hip here gets pressed down onto the floor. Don't worry about this foot coming off the ground, that's completely irrelevant. Then you wriggle around from side to side, sit up straight and make sure that you can feel the floor pressing against both bottom bones equally. Then lean forward, like this, take a breath in. Lean forward, hold this leg like so.

And this is the really important part, watch this part of the back here. In this position while holding the knee into my chest, I'm actually going to lift my chest along the leg. I'll just repeat that. I'm going to lift the chest along the leg, and that rolls the hips forward, and that's what stretches this muscle in the hip here. So I'll do it again. Press against the floor, lift the chest along the leg, and then to finish it, bring the knee closer to the armpit like this.

Now the contraction is I'm going to press this knee here into my forearm, away from the body. Three, two, one, stop. I'm going to lean more weight on my right hip, lift my chest, bring the leg closer in under the armpit and lift my chest once again. And if you get this stretch, right, it'll be in this hip here. And then I'm just going to wriggle around and get the right position, lengthen my spine, bring the leg in even closer.

And then try to breathe into the hip from the inside. Now you can't see this, but as I breathe in, I'm trying to force all the abdominal contents against the inside of the hip. That also helps. And the last thing is there'll be a strong tendency not to let this part of the body here relax. Let it go completely limp, take in another breath, and as you breathe out, bring the leg in a little bit closer to the chest and try and pull the chest even further along the leg.

Now eventually you'll get to the point where, as you can see here, the ribs are being squashed completely. This is being stretched strongly, and this knee is very close underneath my left armpit. And that's what the whole thing looks like. Try it, your hip will thank you for it.


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