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Piriformis and technique


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I always seem to get pain in what I think is the piriformis muscle on the right side. The pain in deep in my gluts and feels like sciatica. A pilates instructor showed me a stretch where I lay on my back with bent knees, cross on leg over and rest my foot above the knee. I grab the left lower leg and gently pull it toward me, where I feel the stretch in my glutes. This seems to help if I do this before and after class.


The problem is when I sit at my desk at work. After taking a morning ballet class, it makes sitting at my desk rather uncomfortable. I have to shift around a lot and go for walks to get rid of the pain. It's not major pain, but rather irratating nonetheless. I just got back from Starbucks...didn't even really need the coffee...just the walk.


What are some common technical flaws which could result in persistant piriformis pain? The pain is on my right (my more turned out leg). Though my right hip, I know, is a little bit posterior to my left one and is more difficult to get on top of if you know what I mean. I'm more comfortable working on my left leg. Do you think this is from having difficulty maintaining rotation on the right leg.


I can't afford any more ultrasound and massage and frankly, I'd rather avoid ultrasound in that area. I have visions of being on my stomach with this dancing "cheek". Not pretty.


I'm doing some work to even out my hips that I got at the chiro's office, and doing all my floor barre and ballet work diligently. I also do the piriformis stretch I described. Does anyone else have experience with this and any suggestions for additional exercises that could help? It's not too bad that it's a major problem, but is irritating to me. I'm doing all the stuff prescribed to me, but it's still a lingering issue. I'm managed to get rid of other little aches and pains along the way, but this one is stubborn.

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I've had tightness there (and everywhere else.) The stretch you describe is good, as is the one where you start on hands and knees, cross one foot over and slide the other leg back (does that make sense?)


I think one just has to keep doing the stretches, and have a nice hot bath (regular-ish massage is good, too) after class to stop things tightening up again. Perhaps you are holding your turnout from there too...? Lots of things to try, anyway - hope this helps in some way.

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I don't know the stretch you describe. I'lll try it when I go home tonight and see what it feels like (I'd do it now but my coworkers would think I'm a crazy ballet person more than they probably do anyway...)


Gripping my gluts came up when I was working with the pilates instrctor. It's a bad habit, I am getting better at working the turnout properly, but once away from the barre I bet anything that the old habits take over. Now that you mention it, I notice that I'm not bending forward from the hips as well as usual this week. Probably been doing some extra gripping....

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Guest Pigeon

I have a piriformis muscle problem, too. The answer to the problem is exactly what you are doing --stretch. The stretches you describe are great, and the more important thing is to keep doing them. My PT urged me to do them before, during and immediately after class. The leg-crossover, and some of the others can be done even if you are in bed watching tv or reading. Stretch the hamstrings, too. Keeping the piriformis muscle stretched has been helping me so much!! :ermm:

Edited by Pigeon
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Guest abcfordance

The piriformis is a deep lateral rotator, so in addition to stretching the more time you can spend with your thighs in parallel or slightly turned in (make sure you do not turn in from the knee) will help lengthen this muscle back out. If the Piriformis is tight you might also want to work on lengthening the TFL and rolling the IT Band.

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If the Piriformis is tight you might also want to work on lengthening the TFL and rolling the IT Band.


Do you have any suggestions on how to do this? Not sure if I know how to roll my IT band :wink: Or how to lengthen my TFL. I have some audible snapping when I roll my legs in the hip socket, which had gotten better for a while, but now seems to be coming back.

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Guest abcfordance

The IT Band is the iliotibial band - not a muscle so you can't stretch it. I either use a foam roller or a rubber ball and literally roll it down the length from around the greater trochanter to just above the knee. There are several stretches for the TFL and they are more easily understood with pictures. I suggest putting "TFL stretch" into google or your search engine of choice. That exact search will give you at least 2 pages of links.

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TFL stretch


I always see people doing this one, especially professional-level ballet dancers, and had wondered what it was for. This is not a stretch that I had been given to do. Perhaps it will help. Thanks for your input.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for this post - Lampwick also thanks for the stretch.


I have been suffering BIG TIME with this problem since about 1.5 years into ballet.


Last year in Feb I had a major back spasm when doing a leg stretch and totally messed up my piriformis muscle/sciatic nerve/etc...


The resulting extreme sciatica has been a serious drag and very painful since that time on and off, when I did it, it was EXCRUCIATING for weeks.


After a lot of reading and discovering that I potentially had "ballet butt" which is caused by overdoing turnout and clamping your glutes without focusing on stretching the piriformis, I've decided that the stretch I was doing precipitated a case of sciatica which was in progress. I had noticed my right hip flexor was overly tight and starting to be painful in class for about 2 weeks prior to the injury.


The long and short of this pain in the butt is that it took me 6 to 8 months to get my right leg reflex back and a very long recovery to get my muscle tone back.


It is still bothering me a lot and I have to watch it.


My advice after you see someone if you do this nasty thing, is to make certain you do proper piriformis stretching as shown in Lampwick's link EVERY class, or you could wind up with this very painful "ballet butt" sciatica which I'm dealing with. It puts a cramp in your style. Desk work aggravates it and you need to remember to stretch every couple of hours or your lower back spazzes.


This is a real problem for me now, I think being more careful of warmup, stretching, and then piriformis stretches could have prevented it.

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