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Piriformis Syndrome: Strengthen, Stretch, and Relax Method for Healing

by Marianne Navada
piriformis syndrome healing

Three years ago, I hurt my piriformis. Here’s how I got piriformis syndrome and my journey to healing it. 

I felt a sharp pain in my right glute during a HIIT workout. I didn’t feel the pain until I did yoga the next day. It started when I was in a low lunge with my right knee on the ground behind me. With my right leg bent, I tried to grab my right foot to deepen the quad stretch, a movement I often do. I felt a shooting and burning pain in my right glute. I would feel it during wheel pose, happy baby, dancer’s pose. Poses that require me to lengthen the quad and shorten the glute, or open up the hips would cause pain. On the other hand, poses that lengthen the glute muscle releases the tightness, such as pigeon pose, felt heavenly. 

What is the piriformis?  

A muscle located deep in the buttocks. 

Spine Health
piriformis muscle front and side view
Original Image from Wikipedia

What is Piriformis Syndrome? 

Piriformis syndrome occurs when your piriformis muscle compresses your sciatic nerve and results in inflammation. It can cause pain or numbness in your buttock and down the back of your leg. It can happen on one side of your body or both. 

Cleveland Clinic

The Symptoms 

It’s easy to confuse piriformis syndrome with sciatica. One of the main difference is that I didn’t have any back pain. The pain was concentrated in a specific part of the buttocks. I would feel numbness running down on the same leg all the way to the foot. 

Aside from workouts, I would feel the same pain sometimes when I’m walking down the stairs, lifting my leg up to kick a ball or when I would sit for more than 20 minutes on a chair that is not well-cushioned. I didn’t have these sensations all the time, only when the piriformis would get aggravated such as going for a long hike the day before or on days when I didn’t stretch it enough. 

There were a few times when the muscle would spasm. These symptoms were the most disturbing for me because it would sometimes happen when I wasn’t moving. And these were the only moments when it was painful enough to not allow me to walk for a few seconds. It happened three times in three years, so not often.

Road to Healing 

Healing the piriformis takes patience. It takes stretching and relaxing the piriformis muscle and also strengthening the glutes. It requires static holds, but also movement. You have to do it consistently. Here’w how I was able to find relief and eventually heal my piriformis. Note that I’m not a medical professional and I speak from experience. Always consult your physician for any medical advice. 

Yoga Poses for Piriformis

Strengthening: These poses fire up the glutes.

  • chair and one legged chair
  • dynamic warrior 3: bend and straighten the legs while in the pose. Go as deep as you can without losing balance.
  • backbends such as camel and wheel with (blocks in between thighs). The key is to use the thighs to lift the chest and create room in your upper body. Don’t think so much about depending the backbend. Rather, focus on engaging the thighs.

Stretching: These poses are deep stretches for the glutes, IT band, and hips.

  • pigeon pose and twisted pigeon. To add a twist your pigeon, with the right shin parallel to the mat in front of you, flex the right foot, and twist as the right shoulder reaches for the right foot.
  • twisted triangle
  • twisted side angle
  • malasana or squat
  • figure four chair


Lateral band walks: place an exercise band on your ankles and walk laterally while in a squat. For additional resistance, add a band above the knee or lower part of the quad. 

Leg lifts: stand straight and raise the right leg to the side, about a foot off the ground, bent or straight is fine. Keep the upper body and hips still and focus on moving the leg only. You can start making circles with the right leg, clockwise and counterclockwise. If you’re losing balance, you can place your left hand on the wall for support. Work towards lifting the leg higher without compressing your posture and stability in the upper body. Repeat both sides. You can do this pose on all fours but I find that standing allows me to practice this movement anytime of the day, in the kitchen waiting for water to boil or if you work on a standing desk.


  • Heat pads: Sit on them whenever you can.
  • Massage: I got deep massages just for my piriformis monthly.
  • Tennis ball: Lie down on your back with feet planted on the ground. Place a tennis ball on the part of the buttocks that hurts. Use the feet to control the pressure. If you want more pressure, you can straighten the legs and take the feet of the ground. You should feel a release when you hit the spot. I like to hold the ball in place, but also move it around to check for areas that need pressure. You can also do this with a foam roller.
  • Theragun: the problem with the theragun and piriformis syndrome is that it can be difficult to hold the device in the position. If you have someone who can help you hold it, great! Balls and rollers can’t recreate the rapid movements a theragun provides.

I consider myself lucky. While doing research on piriformis syndrome, I read that there are those with the same injury who would feel pain every time they climbed down the stairs or even walk. As for me, for the most part, the shooting sensation happened when I would attempt to do poses that used to feel yummy before the injury.

It’s always awkward when you’re a yoga practitioner explaining to a therapist that because of your injury, you can’t quite grab your foot, place it behind your shoulder, and hold it to your ear. Maybe because I’m not an athlete, but I find that there are certain expectations about what the body should be able to do when it comes to recovery. I understand the approach. Not being able to do a king dancer pose doesn’t hinder my daily life. But it’s important to take into account the loss in range of motion during recovery. And that’s why yoga is a lifelong practice. It tells you to never fall for expectations about what the body can and can’t do at any age. As long as you keep practicing, you keep growing and getting deeper. 

Commit to living.