What does piriformis mean?
- The Latin name for the piriformis muscle is musculus piriformis.
- Piriformis is translated as “pear shaped” muscle.
- The word piriformis comes from the Latin words pirum meaning “pear” and forma meaning “form or shape.”
Where does the piriformis muscle attach?
- The muscle attaches onto the anterior sacrum which is on the inside of the pelvic bowl.
- The other end of the muscle attaches to the very top of the femur, which is called the greater trochanter.
What are the actions of the piriformis muscle?
- External rotation of the femur at the hip joint
- Assists in abduction of the femur at the hip joint
- Although we don’t abduct our leg often in a way that activates this muscle, one example of this action occurs in single-legged balancing postures when the piriformis helps stabilize the pelvis.
Postures where this muscle contracts
In the image below, the piriformis muscle is contracted on the right side to stabilize the pelvis relative to the femur.
Postures where this muscle is lengthened
Pigeon is a classic example. The closer the front leg is to parallel with the front line of the mat, the more pressure goes into the piriformis muscle.
Common Problems And Additional Information
Among muscles, the piriformis muscle is especially popular. I wrote an article on it titled Piriformis – A Real Pain in the… some time ago. It’s also mentioned in two other articles: one on sit bone pain and the other discussing the gluteal and psoas relationship. Let’s give it the attention it deserves right here though. The muscle is a lightning rod. Anytime anyone has pain in their buttocks it must be the the piriformis, right? It could be, but it’s not necessarily the source of the pain. There are plenty of other causes of pain in the buttocks as outlined in the articles I linked to above.
Piriformis syndrome is probably one of the most popular reasons that everyone has heard of the piriformis muscle. It’s a syndrome which seems to live under the umbrella of sciatica. While a tight piriformis compressing the sciatic nerve is part of the description of this syndrome, it’s actually more specific than that. In fact, one of the more common causes is repetitive contraction of the muscle. Sorry runners, you’re more likely to end up with piriformis syndrome. If you have a tight one and want to stretch it out, great, just don’t over do it. While stretching it can help, too much stretching can inflame it more! Although there are multiple postures that stretch this muscle, I usually recommend pigeon and its variations for this purpose.
I have experienced pain, a pinching sort of pain, in this very spot for the last couple of years. It goes away when I sleep and is back as soon as I start moving around. I have scoliosis in two places and arthritis in my lower spine and one leg is shorter than the other. In the last few months, I’ve gotten mild sciatica. My doctor sent me to a physical therapist and a chiropractor, but it none of it helped. “I’ve done Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga since last December, and I do laps in an Olympic size pool nearly every day. Both seem to help by warming the muscle. I have to sit, though, because of my job. That’s when the pain is the most severe, even when I take breaks. A couple days ago, after sitting for a long time and then walking for a half hour, my calves cramped up so badly that both legs and feet turn in. It really frightened me, but my doctor didn’t seem that concerned. My question is could the Piriformis muscle be the culprit? And if so, should I try and cure the pain in that muscle?
hello could this piriformis syndrome be my problem,i have pain in the tailbone,cant go into plough,aches and burns frequently and pigeon seems to help,and thank you for very interesting articles,looking forward to the next one! yours,eila hankinson
interesting and informative… more please: )
I just wanted to thank you for your articles on the piriformis and also the video on Lotus prep. This cured years of chronic pain. My pelvic/hip area was so congested that it pulled my SI joint out of alignment. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I love your newsletter!
It seems as though you have started using more photos/pics , as opposed to written descriptions , to make your point, and that helps!