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The piriformis muscle is responsible for many functions we carry out each day. It is located deep in the glutes and is one of the key muscles responsible for helping the legs rotate at the hips. The health of this muscle comes into play when running, cycling, or performing other sports as well as when sitting for eight hours. Tightness in the piriformis muscle can be painful. For some people, tightness can lead to an even more painful condition — sciatica — which occurs when inflammation compresses the sciatic nerve.

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Supine Twist

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Lift the left leg, bending at the knee. Gently grasp the outside of the left knee with the right hand, and draw the left leg toward the floor on your right side. The left hip will lift off the ground. Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds. Release and repeat with the other leg, then repeat again on both sides.

Lying piriformis stretch helovi / Getty Images
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Hip rotator stretch

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your left ankle on your right thigh, just below the knee, keeping the left foot flexed. Using your left hand, or just the strength of your left leg, focus on taking the left knee away from you until you feel the stretch in the outer hip and thigh. If you are fairly flexible, you can raise the right leg off the ground and take hold of it behind the thigh, drawing the right knee toward your chest. Hold for at least 15 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.

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Lower ab strengthener

Pain in the piriformis often comes from poor posture and abdominal weakness. Strengthening the lower portion of the abs will help support the piriformis and surrounding muscles.

On your back, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, activate the core by drawing the belly button toward the spine. Lift the left leg, bringing your knee toward your chest until it is directly above the hip. Hold this position while bringing the right knee alongside the left one. Now, slowly lower the left leg, resting the foot flat on the floor. Follow by lowering the right leg. Repeat this movement, working up to 10 repetitions. Switch between starting with the left leg and starting with the right.

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Seated Stretch

Sitting in a firm chair, cross your left leg over your right knee. Bend forward from the waist, pressing your chest toward the lap, keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Bend until you feel the stretch, then hold that position for 30 seconds. Return to an upright position, switch legs and repeat.

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Groin stretch

Sit on the floor and stretch both legs straight in front of you. Separate them as wide as possible, but make sure you can still sit upright — don't let your pelvis fall back. Alternately, you can sit up on a folded towel or block. Place your palms flat on the floor in front of you, and gently bend forward, going only as low as you can keep your back straight. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. If dropping the chin and rounding forward feels good, do so mindfully.

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Sitting piriformis stretch

Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you. Bend your left leg and cross it over your straight right leg, placing the foot flat on the floor just outside the right shin or knee. Place your left hand about a foot behind your seat for support and wrap your right arm around your left knee. Alternatively, you can place the outside of the right elbow against the outside of the left knee. Inhale to sit up straight and tall, then exhale to twist to the left. Hold for about 30 seconds, continuing to follow that process: inhale to get taller, exhale to twist a little bit more. Return to facing forward on an exhale, and repeat on the other side. This stretch can also be done with the foot of the bent leg placed inside the other knee.

Seated piriformis stretch Maridav / Getty Images
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Clamshell

Lie on your left side with your legs stacked. Extend your left arm above your head or bend at the elbow, and rest your head on your arm. Do not prop yourself up on your elbow. Bend your knees so that your lower body creates an obtuse angle. Keeping your feet together, lift your right knee toward the ceiling; avoid letting the hips fall back or forward. Lower the knee. Repeat 10 times before rolling over and repeating on the right side.

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Inner Thigh Stretch

Sit on the floor and bend your knees out to the sides, placing the soles of your feet together. Rather than pulling the heels in close to the groin, move them out so there is at least a foot between them — this will stretch the outer thigh rather than the inner. Holding the ankles or feet, use the leg muscles to draw the knees toward the ground. You can also lean forward and use your elbows to assist with this movement, but be careful not to over-stretch. Once you feel a stretch, hold the position for 30 seconds.

Woman performing inner thigh stretch Thomas_EyeDesign / Getty Images
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Recovery Stretch

When doing a stretching routine, any kind of exercise, or even after a few hours sitting at a desk, you can relieve tightness in the lower back and hips with a recovery stretch. Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Draw your knees toward your chest and wrap your arms either behind your knees or over your shins. Gently pull your knees towards your chest. Hold this position, with your knees as close to your chest as possible, shoulders relaxed, and the small of your back flat on the floor. Sometimes, rocking side to side can offer further relief.

Woman performing recover stretch Jasmina007 / Getty Images
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Include a Proper Warm-Up

Whether you are performing stretches or working out, take the time to warm up your muscles before you begin any activity. The piriformis is one of the muscles in the lower body that moves and rotates the legs. Walking or light jogging for five minutes before stretching or working out gets the blood flowing, improves performance, and reduces injury risk.

Woman warming up before exercise urbazon / Getty Images

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.