I have been told that I have a piriformis muscle that spasms. I have been to chiropractors and physical therapy, but have not found a really good stretch for this muscle. It is very painful and prevents me from doing a lot of leg exercises. Do you know of a stretch that would help?
The piriformis is one of the prime muscles responsible for rotating the hip externally and for stabilizing it. Tightness or spasm in this muscle can lead to hip and leg pain, since the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis and can get irritated. If you are doing a lot of side-lying hip exercises that use a long lever (meaning a straight leg as opposed to a bent leg) this might be the problem. The rotators are small muscles and are not designed to resist large amounts of weight.
To stretch and relax the piriformis, do the following stretch on a daily basis:
Lie on your back with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and use your left arm to bring your right knee toward the left shoulder. Relax your upper back so that it stays in contact with the floor. Breathe comfortably while you hold this stretch for 30 seconds to one minute. As you get more flexible in your hip, try wrapping your left elbow under your right knee to pull it closer to your shoulder. Repeat on the left side.
Try taking a yoga class whenever possible and you may find that you can relieve any accumulated tension in the hips. You will feel more refreshed and energized after each class, and if you stick with it, you will eventually develop more flexibility in your whole body!