Simple Gluteal Stretch Eases Back Pain

If you’ve been using Dr. Lavine’s Top Five Exer­cis­es for Your Low Back you’ve prob­a­bly noticed a big improve­ment in one or more aspect of low back health:

  • Less fre­quent pain
  • Less intense pain
  • Greater flex­i­bil­i­ty, less stiff­ness, and
  • Abil­i­ty to stand, sit, walk, and exer­cise more with­out get­ting your low back into trou­ble

If you haven’t tried the exer­cis­es yet, here’s a link to down­load them.

Despite all the poten­tial ben­e­fits from these five core exer­cis­es, some peo­ple need some­thing extra to achieve max­i­mal results.  After all, it’s not real­is­tic to cov­er every pos­si­ble aspects of low back health with just five exer­cis­es.

What’s the most important exercise I’ve left off my short list?

Stretch­ing the pir­i­formis mus­cle.

Here’s a pic­ture of the pir­i­formis mus­cle and its neigh­bors.

Hip muscle anatomy

Pir­i­formis mus­cle and its neigh­bors

You’re look­ing at a pic­ture of the deep but­tock mus­cles – the mus­cles that lie under­neath the gluteals.

Anato­my text­books (and ath­let­ic train­ers) will tell you that the pir­i­formis mus­cle is respon­si­ble for out­ward rota­tion of the thigh.

That’s true enough, but the pir­i­formis has a more sig­nif­i­cant role beyond that.  It helps bal­ance your body weight over your leg with each step you take.

The ther­a­band leg lift exer­cise that’s includ­ed as one of Dr. Lavine’s Top Five Exer­cis­es for Your Low Back acti­vates the pir­i­formis.

It’s com­mon to have a tight pir­i­formis (or tight­ness of the oth­er deep gluteal mus­cles).  Tight­ness of these butt mus­cles can cause pain in three ways:

  • You can have painful trig­ger points in the pir­i­formis.
  • Tight­ness of the pir­i­formis wreaks hav­oc on the sacroil­i­ac joint.
  • The sci­at­ic nerve runs over or through the pir­i­formis; tight­ness of the pir­i­formis can be a direct cause of (or sec­ondary con­trib­u­tor to) sci­at­ic pain.

Simple way to stretch the piriformis

  • Sit on a firm chair
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee
  • Lean your tor­so for­ward
  • You’ll feel a good stretch through the right but­tock
  • Hold for 30 sec­onds, then repeat on the left side.

Incor­po­rate this stretch into your dai­ly rou­tine – you’ll soon notice the ben­e­fit.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Sacroil­i­ac joint injury




About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website,, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.

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One Response to Simple Gluteal Stretch Eases Back Pain

  1. George Blomme says:

    I didn’t real­ize how tight my pir­i­formis muscle(s) are until I tried the stretch you rec­om­mend­ed in this newslet­ter. Thanks for the tip. Its prob­a­bly quite impor­tant.

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