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Apply pressure to the piriformis muscle by sitting on a tennis ball.
Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images
Piriformis syndrome is a literal pain in the butt. Characterized by buttock pain, and sometimes numbness and tingling running down the back of one leg, piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle is tight and compresses the sciatic nerve.
Your piriformis a small muscle deep in your glutes that stabilizes your pelvis and hips. It attaches at the bottom of your sacrum and runs to the top of your femur. The large sciatic nerve runs underneath the piriformis muscle, so when the muscle is tight or compromised, it can put pressure on the nerve, causing pain.
Running and other repetitive activity can cause problems in the piriformis muscle. Rest, stretching and massage can be effective ways to relieve your discomfort. When you can't make it to a physical therapist or massage therapist to help you, reach into your closet for a tennis ball. The small, round ball is just the right size and shape to help you relieve the piriformis pain and offer relief.
Understand the Symptoms
Before you go rolling out what you suspect to be a tight piriformis, it's a good idea to be sure you don't have another issue causing your pain. Consult with a doctor or physical therapist if you have a dull ache in one side of your butt or pain that radiates down the back of your thigh, and even all the way into your foot. Pain that's aggravated by sitting for a long time and reduced range of motion at your hip also indicate possible piriformis syndrome. Pain while climbing stairs or inclines are symptoms, too. Piriformis syndrome usually affects only one side at a time.
Massage With a Tennis Ball
A tennis ball works well for self massage at your piriformis. You could also use a lacrosse ball, which is slightly firmer and can provide a deeper sensation.
Sit on the floor with the ball under the affected buttock cheek, and extend your legs out in front of you. Lean onto the ball and start to roll around a bit until you find a spot that feels especially tight. Sit on that spot for 20 to 30 seconds, until you start to feel it release. You will experience discomfort and some pain, but it should not create numbness or a shooting sensation.
Roll around some more to find other tight spots. Each time you find one, hang out there for an extended time to promote release. This self massage can be performed daily.
Add Other Stretches
In addition to using a tennis ball to relieve piriformis pain, stretch the area well and often. An upside-down figure four stretch can help.
To do this stretch, lie on your back and bend both knees with the feet planted. If the right side is affected, cross the right ankle over the left knee and thread the right arm through the keyhole of the legs and the other around the left thigh to hug the knees to the chest. Hold for about 30 seconds.
Switch sides, as it can't hurt to stretch the nonaffected side and keep it healthy and loose.