Video Series: Exercises for Sciatica (Caused by Piriformis Syndrome)

Two stretches for sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome to help ease muscular tension and relieve low back and leg pain.

What exercises help reduce sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome is a common cause of sciatica—that shooting nerve pain down your leg. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle presses on the sciatic nerve, causing pain.

If your doctor told you piriformis syndrome is causing your sciatic nerve pain, certain exercises may help alleviate your symptoms. The 2 exercises demonstrated in the videos above—knee to chest and piriformis stretch—ease piriformis-related sciatic nerve pain because they stretch the piriformis muscle. You can read more details about these sciatica exercises below.

Knee to Chest

Purpose: To reduce pressure on the nerves in your low back (lumbar spine).

How to perform a knee to chest stretch:

  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Bring your knee toward your chest.
  3. Using your hands, hold your leg in the stretched position for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat with the other leg and hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat on each leg 3 to 5 times.
  6. Hold both legs together in the stretched positions for 10 seconds.
  7. Repeat with both legs 3 to 5 times.

A group of men performing knee to chest exercises.Knee to chest stretches may help reduce low back. Photo Source:

Piriformis Stretch (Pretzel)

Purpose: To increase piriformis muscle flexibility.

How to perform a piriformis stretch:

  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Hold the ankle of your affected leg and place it over the knee of your unaffected leg.
  3. Pull your knee toward your chest, using a towel to help you ease your knee into a gentle stretched position.
  4. You should feel a stretch near your piriformis muscle (it’s located in the lower part of your back and is connected to your thighbone). Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3 times.

Woman performing a gluteal stretch outdoorsModified version of the piriformis stretch also gently stretches the gluteal muscle in the buttock. Photo Source:

How do these stretches reduce sciatic pain caused by piriformis syndrome?

When performed correctly and consistently, these stretches make the piriformis muscle more flexible. When the piriformis muscle is flexible, it’s less likely to irritate the sciatic nerve that runs just underneath it.

Can exercising with sciatica and piriformis syndrome hurt me?

Sciatica is painful enough as it is, so make sure you’re taking the right precautions before starting any exercise or stretching program to prevent additional spinal injury. Here are 3 ways to make your sciatica exercise regimen work for you:

1. Know your diagnosis. It’s important you’re clear on what’s really causing your sciatic nerve pain, as this will influence what exercise program you should do. Someone with sciatica caused by a herniated disc may have a different activity plan to manage pain than someone with sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome.

2. Get your doctor’s approval. Talk to your spine specialist about what activities you can safely engage in and which you should avoid. Your doctor may also recommend you meet with a physical therapist to teach you how to safely exercise and position you for success before you exercise at home.

3. Throw “no pain, no gain” out the window. Exercising when you have a spine condition is about adding flexibility, strength, and range of motion to your spinal muscles; it’s not about how far you can push yourself or how many calories you can burn. Slowly advance your activity level based on how you feel—don’t feel pressured to do more than your body allows.

If you have sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome, the sharp leg and hip pain can disrupt your quality of life. These stretches and exercises may help ease your symptoms, and may provide long-term relief when incorporated into your daily routine.

Continue Reading …. Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome