posted on 8/5/14
Almost there! If this guy straightened his right leg and gradually pushed down on his left knee while leaning forward, it would stretch his piriformis muscle. (photo credit: Thinkstock/iStock)
A couple years ago I suffered an injury that was literally a pain in the butt. My doctor was pretty certain it was piriformis syndrome. It's caused by compression or entrapment of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle where the nerve passes through the gluteal muscles (buttocks). The pain can be a constant ache or sharp pain in the hip or radiating down the leg or into the lower back. It's also been called sciatica. Fortunately it can usually be treated and prevented with some simple stretches.
Why does it happen? Some of the possibilities are muscles getting larger when doing certain exercises such as faster sprints, cramping or simply tightness of the piriformis muscle. For me the pain came on suddenly while doing shorter intervals. I started doing a simple stretch by lying on my back with my right foot on the ground resting my left foot on my right knee and pulling my left knee towards me until I feel the piriformis stretch. I would hold it for 30 seconds, and do the other side for balance, even though my pain was only on one side. After less than a couple weeks, the pain was gone and I was able to resume my normal training.
Here's a simple video of the stretch:
There are many other videos that have more advanced poses if you are interested in trying. Simply search "piriformis stretch" on Google or YouTube to see them.
Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.
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