Have you been diagnosed with Piriformis Syndrome by a qualified health professional?
Below we share an explanation of three exercises our trusted Brisbane physiotherapists often prescribe to our clients with the condition.
Exercises for Piriformis Syndrome
At North West Physio, we believe three (3) of the best exercises for relieving symptoms of piriformis syndrome are as follows:
- Seated Piriformis Stretch
- Seated Gluteal Stretch
- Sciatic Nerve Slider
1: Seated Piriformis Stretch
The seated piriformis stretch helps to lengthen a tight piriformis muscle.
This movement relieves the compressive force the muscle is putting on the sciatic nerve and helps to reduce your overall pain and symptoms.
- Begin by sitting on a chair or on the edge of a bed or bench
- Cross your affected leg so the heel is sitting on top of your opposite knee
- While maintaining a straight back, lean your torso forwards until you feel a stretch in your buttock
- Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds
- Repeat on the opposite side
Complete 3 to 5 sets on each leg.
2: Seated Glute stretch
While there are a few seated stretches to lengthen and relieve tightness in the piriformis muscle, this is one of our favourites.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you
- Lift and bend your left leg and cross it over so your foot is sitting flat on the ground beside your right knee. Ensure your back remains straight during this movement.
- Squeeze your knee to your chest. Lean forward slightly to increase the stretch
- Hold this position for 15-20 seconds
- Repeat on the opposite side
3: Sciatic Nerve Slider
Sciatic nerve sliders help to improve the mobility of the sciatic nerve and reduce pain and symptoms associated with piriformis syndrome.
This movement is also known as sciatic nerve flossing or sciatic nerve gliding.
- Begin sitting on a chair or the edge of a bench/bed
- Extending at the knee, straighten your leg towards the roof. Keep your toes pointed towards the sky
- When you are extending your knee, simultaneously move your head to look up towards the sky
- Continue to extend your knee until you begin to feel slight tension
- Lower your leg back into the bent-knee starting position and at the same time draw your chin to the chest and look towards the floor
- Repeat 5-10 repetitions
An easy way to understand it is to think of your sciatic nerve as tooth floss and the surrounding tissue (joints, muscles etc) as the plaque between your teeth.
When you haven’t flossed for a while, there is a large amount of plaque build-up, and it is harder for the floss to move between your teeth. When you don’t have plaque, the floss glides easily between the teeth with no irritation. This is similar to the movement of your sciatic nerve. When your surrounding muscles are tight, it’s difficult for the nerve to glide normally and can cause pain, but when your muscles are relaxed, it glides freely.
Does Walking Help Those with Piriformis Syndrome?
Gentle walking is a good way to stay active and maintain your cardiovascular fitness while experiencing piriformis syndrome.
However, it is important to partake in the proper pre and post exercise routine to help minimise progression or irritation of your condition.
A gentle warm up and cool down, plus performing the stretches listed above is a great way to stay active while minimising your pain and symptoms.
Make sure you listen to your body and take rest periods when you need to.
Do you have piriformis syndrome? Exercises to Avoid
Any exercises that cause an exacerbation of your symptoms should be avoided.
For example, if sitting is painful for you, avoid exercises that involve sitting (e.g cycling, stationary bike or rowing machine).
If you’d like to find out to visit one of our physios for a personalised treatment and management plan, please contact us here.