The Piriformis Muscle


January 16, 2014     muscle | piriformis | sciatica | trigger points | Anatomy | Lower Limb

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, that is, on the inside of the pelvic bowl.
  • The other end of the muscle attaches to the very top of the femur, called the greater trochanter.

The Piriformis Muscle

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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.

piriformis muscle in utthita hasta padangusthasana

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.

piriformis muscle in pigeon pose

Common Problems And Additional Information

The piriformis muscle is a very popular muscle. 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? No, not necessarily. There are plenty of other causes of pain in the buttocks as outlined in the articles I linked to above.

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome is probably one of the most popular reasons that everyone has heard of the piriformis muscle. Piriformis syndrome seems to live under the umbrella of sciatica. It is more specific than the general description that the piriformis muscle is tight and compressing the sciatic nerve that runs underneath it. 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 and inflame it more! I usually recommend pigeon and its variations for this purpose.

Trigger Points

Piriformis Trigger Points