How to: Stretch Pirformis

Piriformis - Ottawa Massage BlogOne of the more commonly tight muscles, the piriformis, can be a real pain in your …. well, you know. But stretching it out regularly will help reduce pain and discomfort in your … well, you know. The following stretches aren’t just for the piriformis though. They also help with the gluteus minimus and other external rotators of the hip (there are five others!).

Some indications that you may need to stretch your external hip rotators are:

  • sciatic pain
  • SI joint pain
  • stiffness in the hips
  • postural imbalances such as being ‘duck-footed’ (toes pointing out) or weight bearing on one leg (hip jutting out)

Without further ado, here are some stretches and modifications for the external hip rotators. Find one that best suits your flexibility level.

Pigeon Pose: Kneeling on all 4s, bring the right knee forward to the right wrist. Let the right knee sink out toward the ground so the shin is more or less perpendicular between your two hands. Then extend the left leg straight back, with your toes resting in a straight line behind you. If you are able to, fold the torso over the front leg. If you find this pose very challenging, put a book, block, or cushion under your bent right hip to help support you at a comfortable distance from the ground. Repeat on the other side.

Pigeon Pose - Ottawa Massage Blog

Figure-4: Lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent toward the ceiling, place the right foot on the left knee. Reach through the triangle made by your two thighs to grasp the back of the left thigh. Slowly draw the left thigh towards your chest, bringing the right shin and knee in close. Straighten the left knee to lessen the stretch. Repeat on the other side. If you have trouble grasping the back of the thigh, wrap a belt behind the thigh and hold the two ends in your hands.Figure 4 - Ottawa Massage Blog

Figure-4 on a chair: Similar to the Figure-4, only you’re sitting. While seated, place the right foot on the left knee. This may be far enough for you to feel a stretch in the right hip. If not, slowly bring your chest forward over your legs. Repeat on the other side.Figure 4 Seated - Ottawa Massage Blog

You will feel these stretches in your hip or buttock of the side being stretched. You may also feel them in the outside of the thigh, and in the low back. As long as you don’t have pain, enjoy whatever stretch you’re experiencing.

Remember to go only far enough so that you feel a delicious, comfortable sensation of lengthening. Pain means you’ve gone too far, and your muscles will contract and shorten, not stretch.

Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side, or longer if you like.


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Three-time nominee and 2016 winner of Top Massage Clinic in Ottawa! At Body Poets Massage Therapy, we are committed to excellence in client care. We provide therapeutic, sports, pre- and post-natal, wellness, cupping, hot stone, ART, Thai massage, and more in a convenient, peaceful, downtown Ottawa location with free client parking. We are FSCO-registered and can bill your auto insurance company directly for treatment after a motor vehicle accident. We also bill directly to Great West Life and Green Shield. Our flagship office at 504 Kent Street in Ottawa is close to the Queensway and easy to reach by car, foot, bike or bus. Our satellite clinic in Almonte, Ontario is cozy and charming. Our online booking system makes it simple for you to reserve your appointment at any time. And our network of like-minded health professionals means we can refer you to practitioners in other fields who meet your needs for quality care. Step into the circle of care, at Body Poets.,,

7 thoughts on “How to: Stretch Pirformis

  1. Pingback: The Language of My Hips | Tales from the Hips (and Heart)

  2. Reblogged this on Body Poets Massage Therapy and commented:

    Maybe you’ve spent more time sitting around over the past few weeks, or maybe you’ve been out on the slopes or the rink. Either way, you may find yourself feeling stiff or tight around the low back, hips, or buttocks. And if you’ve been driving more than usual, some sciatic-type symptoms might be showing up. One of these piriformis stretches may be just what you need to ease some of that discomfort. Your RMT can also suggest rolling and other exercises or treatment that can get down into whatever muscle tension is cramping your style.

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