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Seated Piriformis Stretch | How To Stretch The Piriformis While Sitting

Piriformis is a deep, tight butt muscle that can cause a ton of pain when tight. Although it may appear small and innocent, Piriformis can single-handedly refer pain to the hip, tailbone, and even down the leg via sciatic symptoms. The seated Piriformis stretches in this post can relieve a ton of tension and help you sit more comfortably with less pain.


Seated Piriformis Stretch Progressions

There are four ways you can stretch the Piriformis muscle while sitting. I recommend starting with the first position and feeling where the tension is, then progressing to the remaining seated Piriformis stretches to wherever you feel the most relief. Each of the seated Piriformis stretch images below displays a right-side Piriformis stretch - make sure to hit both sides and spend more time stretching the tighter side.

Seated Piriformis Stretch 1: The Starter

Seated Piriformis Stretch Position

This is the starting position for your seated Piriformis stretch. Notice the blue and green dashed lines illustrating a 90-degree angle between the spine and thigh - this is the optimal position to start your seated Piriformis stretch position.

One common mistake is sitting on a surface higher or lower than this. The best surface for a seated Piriformis stretch is one where your thigh is parallel to the ground as shown here.

Seated Piriformis Stretch 2: The Knee-Down

Knee Down Seated Piriformis Stretch

One way to progress the seated Piriformis stretch is by placing pressure on your knee, as shown with the blue arrow in the image above. This added pressure increases the stretch on the Piriformis and glute muscles.

Seated Piriformis Stretch 3: The Forward Lean

Forward Lean Seated Piriformis Stretch

The forward lean is my personal favorite progression for the standard seated Piriformis stretch. As you can see with the lines drawn, maintain a straight spine as you lean forward to increase the stretch on Piriformis and the gluteal muscles. The green line illustrated the thigh position, which should not change.

Seated Piriformis Stretch 4: Glute Attack

Advanced Seated Piriformis Stretch

This is the most advanced seated Piriformis stretch, and potentially the most beneficial as well. To perform Piriformis stretch 4, pull the knee in towards the chest. You should feel a very strong stretch from the Piriformis muscle. I like pulsing the stretch slowly in a flossing manner - pulling the knee in for a few seconds, releasing, and pulling again for 10-15 reps.


Why The Seated Piriformis Stretch?

There are many, many reasons why releasing the Piriformis is beneficial. Piriformis syndrome and buttock/hip pain caused by Piriformis affect a ton of people, and this stretch makes it easier to live and move pain-free (see Piriformis Syndrome Test). The pain pattern below is the common pain referral pattern caused directly by Piriformis muscle tightness:

Seated Piriformis Stretch Anatomy

Piriformis Pain Pattern (left) and Muscle (right) [1]

I particularly enjoy and recommend the seated Piriformis stretch because it is something anyone can do anywhere. If you work a desk job, you can cross one leg over the other and start cranking out seated Piriformis lean stretches while doing your work. If you are watching TV, get into seated Piriformis stretch 2 while enjoying a game or your favorite show.

Nearly everyone can benefit from a looser Piriformis, and the seated stretches here make it easier than ever.


Seated Piriformis Stretch Doesn't Work

If you stretch the living hell out of your Piriformis muscle and nothing comes of it, there is a great chance you need to release Piriformis trigger points first. Piriformis trigger points can be so tight and so stiff that the only way to release tension in them is through physical deep-tissue massage. Deep-tissue massage can break up and loosen muscle fibers that have potentially been holding constant tension for years. See best muscle relaxer for Piriformis

Manual massage and release of Piriformis trigger points can be done by a physio or massage therapist, or at home with a purposefully made tool like QL Claw. QL Claw is essentially a therapist's elbow on a block, with a targeted and specific function to release the Piriformis muscle of its tension.

QL Claw - seated piriformis stretch

Piriformis Muscle Release Using QL Claw

After a thorough massage of the Piriformis, the seated Piriformis stretch should come much easier. It is incredible how effective a little targeted trigger point release can be!


Beyond The Seated Piriformis Stretch

After doing your massage and/or seated Piriformis stretch, you may feel inclined to start living a more active life. If you decide to get back into physical activity, it can be very beneficial to strengthen the Piriformis and gluteal muscles to become more powerful and resilient in your endeavors. Here are a few easy glute/Piriformis strengthening exercises that can give you an added layer of bulletproofing with your life beyond Piriformis muscle pain:

Thank you for reading Seated Piriformis Stretch! Read next for more on how to fix the muscles, and fix the pain:



[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

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