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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT

Piriformis Stretch / The Posterior Hip

Many clients come in to my office complaining of "glute pain." Now, it is completely valid that one or more of your three gluteal group muscles could be causing a muscular problem. But they're big, powerful muscles which we can usually get under control fairly quickly. Typically, the underhanded culprits are of the "Deep Lateral Rotator Group", which are a group of six small muscles underneath the gluteal group. Since they're physically smaller, therefore weaker, closer to the nerves and more difficult to stretch, they're hard to keep relaxed and healthy. The most (in)famous of this group is the Piriformis muscle.

the nerve, so when it’s hypertonic (“tight”), it can press down on the nerve like a rolling pin pushing down a piece of cotton. This nerve compression (referred to as “Piriformis Syndrome”) can lead to numbness and tingling down the leg and is often mistaken for sciatica, which has similar symptoms. While true sciatica requires surgical intervention, Piriformis Syndrome is a soft tissue dysfunction that responds quite well to massage therapy. and stretching. If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, give this stretch a try!

The Piriformis is one of six muscles in the "Deep Lateral Rotator Group". We call them that, because, you guessed it, they're deeper than the other muscles in the area, and they rotate the leg laterally. Anatomists are typically very literal.

They attach, roughly, from the sacrum and pelvis to the head of the femur. If you imagine holding a string from your sacrum to the very top of your thigh, that's about the direction these muscles take. If you keep your leg stationary and move your toes in and out, it's this muscle group that's doing most of the moving.

Since these muscles are between the pelvis and the femur, to stretch them, we want to move those bones apart. But we also need to rotate the leg laterally to keep the head of the femur in the correct position. It's this rotation of the femur that makes the stretch correct or not – and it translates into the position of the lower leg.

Beginning standing next to a hard flat surface that’s about the height of your pelvis. Rotate and place one leg up, with your knee pointing out. It’s critical here that your lower leg is perpendicular to your body; if it’s turned in, your femur isn’t rotated enough and there isn't enough space between your pelvis and femur. If it’s turned out, your femur is rotated too far and there’s going to be too much stress on your knee.

Gently bend the knee of your standing leg, lowering yourself further in to the surface your leg is on. Get used to the feeling of your weight on the leg that's stretching, using the stability of the surface. Keeping your abs pulled in, pivot your body forward, aiming to rest your chest on your leg. When you get as far as you comfortably can drop your body, hold the stretch for a good 30-60 seconds, or until it feels like the muscles have relaxed. You can even drop your head down to relax your shoulders and feel the stretch affect your entire spine. This is my favorite part of this stretch!

Keep in mind that some people can’t come close to the full movement here, and that’s perfectly fine. The idea of the stretch is to try to move your body in to this position, and whatever range of motion you’ve got on a particular day is to be respected. Especially when dealing with the hips and lower back, you never want to bounce or force a stretch. There are days when this movement is effortless for me, and others when it’s incredibly difficult to move in to the proper position. On those more difficult days, I don’t try to force myself in to any position, but I do spend extra time letting myself “fall” in to it. The idea is that the longer you let your mind and muscles relax, the more fully you’ll stretch. 

 

The deep lateral rotators, and especially the Piriformis, are prone to dysfunction, unfortunately. So stretching them regularly is crucial if you’ve experienced any kind of hip pain or numbness and tingling in the legs. And massage therapy can really help! Book your session today and we can begin to move you out of pain and toward proper movement and function again. I’ll see you in my Westport office!



Avatar: Massage Pundit

Re: Piriformis Stretch / The Posterior Hip

 Hi Diana, You explained beautifully about most common glute pain and how we can get rif of it. Also your thanks for sharing your expertise on lateral rotators especially Piriformis. My questing to you is, are the electric massagers will be helpful for the same problem also?

Avatar: Diana

Re: Piriformis Stretch / The Posterior Hip

Great question!  Electric tools help stimulate tissue, and every time tissue is stimulated and then the stimulation STOPS, the tissue relaxes.  So in that way, electric tools are helpful. 

The drawback of these tools lies in understanding anatomy.  When you come in for a professional massage therapy session, I know which muscles are causing problems and where they physically lie in your body.  So in that way, I can more thoroughly treat soft tissue dysfunction. 

But, I use massage tools all the time.  They are certainly helpful between professional sessions and feel so good!

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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT