If you’ve ever had a pain in your gluteus muscles (three buttocks muscles) that felt deep and possibly radiated down your outer thigh towards your knee and beyond, your piriformis might need to be released. It might surprise you to know that releasing this muscle can often help low back pain as well!
The piriformis muscle is a small muscle that if too tight can cause large problems. It is located under the gluteus and can be difficult to reach for treatment. The reason it is so important to be able to treat this area, is it’s proximity to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve does not like to be crowded out by tight muscle. So, if your piriformis is squeezing your sciatic nerve that is near by, that nerve will trigger pain to let it be know that it isn’t happy. If that pain is ignored, it becomes worse and will eventually work it’s way down the path of the sciatic nerve all the way down to your toes!
There are many ways for these muscles to become overly tight. On one end of the spectrum is overuse. Often runners and cyclist will regularly struggle with this condition. Especially if they are not consistently stretching these muscle after workouts. On the other end of the spectrum is sitting all day. Many people that have desk jobs deal with some of the same problems that the athletes do, but for a very different reason. Prolonged sitting literally smashes the piriformis, which has the same outcome on the sciatic nerve – irritation. That is one of the reasons standing desks and other devices are becoming more popular in office settings.
By releasing the tension and tightness of the piriformis, the irritation that the sciatic nerve is experiencing is also released. The trick is figuring out how to get past the big, thick gluteus muscles to reach the small, hidden piriformis muscle. In the above photo, you can see a technique that moves the gluteus out of the way and allows the therapist to apply pressure to work loose the tightness underneath. This technique is also a needed stretch for all muscles involved. The combination of the massage of the piriformis and the stretching maneuver feels amazing and often provides immediate relief! Sometimes it takes time for the sciatic nerve to calm down once it has been released. Like some people you might know, nerves can hold a grudge for a while. So, be patient and with continued light stretches and taking it easy with activities that irritate, eventually the pain will completely go away. Ask your therapist for some stretches that you can do at home.
When your gluteus muscles are overly tight, another unpleasant situation that can arise is lower back pain. Often this discomfort isn’t necessarily directly a problem in the low back area. It is often due to tightness in the hip area throwing off the proper body mechanics and therefore stressing the lower back area. By releasing the gluteus muscles, the lower back will also feel an improvement.
San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club
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