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The Piriformis Muscle

Updated: May 17, 2022

Many of us are familiar with this muscle. It's what gives us, literally, the proverbial "pain in the as_". It's a very common problem especially in athletes and runners.

A tight piriformis often gets mistaken for sciatica. "True" sciatica is caused by irritation of one of the 5 component nerve roots in the spine that form the large sciatic nerve in the pelvis.

The sciatic nerve in the pelvis, for most individuals, runs directly under the piriformis muscle. So when the piriformis goes into spasms or tightens from overuse or underuse, it's close proximity to the sciatic nerve can irritate it and cause the "pain in the butt". (This is not "true sciatica" since the nerve roots in the spine are unaffected).

The symptoms are burning in the buttock, (deep in the buttock - a pain in the as-) and rarely causes numbness or referral pain in the leg. Whereas "true" sciatica does.

How to relieve yourself of the pain in the buttock:

Stretching the piriformis can give you short term relief. But for long term solution, look at strengthening your glutes (buttock muscles) and other muscles that support the pelvic structure including the inner thighs and pelvic floor.


See sample pictures below this article for some exercises that may help.

The Piriformis: Lay on your side as if you are preparing for the clam or side plank. Lift the top knee up and down several times. Keep the feet together.

Feel the piriformis muscles contracting and releasing deep in the butt. This movement is a simple way to tone it and will encourage the muscle to relax and lengthen.

Stabilize the pelvic structure: Side plank, sunbird, cobra with alternate leg lifts,clams are some of the more well known ways to strengthen the muscles that help stabilize the pelvic structure. Stabilizing the pelvic structure means to firm up the muscles that surround the sciatic nerve and support the internal organs.

Stretch: Pigeon, key hole or figure 4 pose are a few great stretches for the hips and piriformis.

For 1-on-1 coaching set up an appointment by calling me at 705-888-9686 or email

Schedule a private session with Joanne for an assessment and to determine the best exercises for you. Joanne Pineau, C-IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist

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