Simple gluteal stretch eases back pain

by | May 1, 2011 | Lower Back Health, Lower back pain | 1 comment

Piriformis and neighboring muscles

If you’ve been using Dr. Lavine’s Top Five Exercises for Your Low Back you’ve probably noticed a big improvement in one or more aspect of low back health:

  • Less frequent pain
  • Less intense pain
  • Greater flexibility, less stiffness, and
  • Ability to stand, sit, walk, and exercise more without getting your low back into trouble

If you haven’t tried the exercises yet, here’s a link to download them.

Despite all the potential benefits from these five core exercises, some people need something extra to achieve maximal results.  After all, it’s not realistic to cover every possible aspects of low back health with just five exercises.

What’s the most important exercise I’ve left off my short list?

Stretching the piriformis muscle.

Anatomy textbooks (and athletic trainers) will tell you that the piriformis muscle is responsible for outward rotation of the thigh.

That’s true enough, but the piriformis has a more significant role beyond that.  It helps balance your body weight over your leg with each step you take.

The theraband leg lift exercise that’s included as one of Dr. Lavine’s Top Five Exercises for Your Low Back activates the piriformis.

It’s common to have a tight piriformis (or tightness of the other deep gluteal muscles).  Tightness of these butt muscles can cause pain in three ways:

  • You can have painful trigger points in the piriformis.
  • Tightness of the piriformis wreaks havoc on the sacroiliac joint.
  • The sciatic nerve runs over or through the piriformis; tightness of the piriformis can be a direct cause of (or secondary contributor to) sciatic pain.

Simple way to stretch the piriformis

  • Sit on a firm chair
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee
  • Lean your torso forward
  • You’ll feel a good stretch through the right buttock
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the left side.

Incorporate this stretch into your daily routine – you’ll soon notice the benefit.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Sacroiliac joint injury



1 Comment

  1. George Blomme

    I didn’t realize how tight my piriformis muscle(s) are until I tried the stretch you recommended in this newsletter. Thanks for the tip. Its probably quite important.


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