Thursday, March 5, 2015

Piriformis Stretches for Pregnancy

Day by day, this piriformis thing is getting better.

I can take the stairs without wincing. I can walk without limping. The shooting pains are nonexistent. The most I feel is discomfort and, nine times out of 10, the feeling isn't even in the piriformis – it's in the hamstrings or calves. I attribute that to the compensations I made to move as best I could.

Of course, not all is perfect. Lateral movements still hurt, as I learned trying to demonstrate side lunges in class. As for running, that is a no go, too. I tried today, and phew. Not good. One step at a jog pace sent a shooting pain right to my back pocket.

I am trying not to be discouraged. I was able to walk 2.25 miles at varying inclines without pain, which is moving as my BFF pointed out. And, two weeks ago, I couldn't walk around Target without crying.

So I'll be keeping up with my stretches and exercises and see what happens in a week. If I can't run then, I'll pull the plug on running till baby S is born.

My routine

I roll, stretch and exercise two times a day – once in the morning, after breakfast, and once while watching TV at night.

Rolling: I do this first. As an actual foam roller is difficult to use at this point in pregnancy, I am so thankful for my Tiger Tail. In this order, I give 10 good rolls to the following areas: posterior calf, lateral calf, medial calf, quads, inner thighs, IT band and hamstrings. If it's feeling particularly tight, I will also roll my low back.

Stretching: Rolling helps warm up the muscles so that I can stretch without injuring the tissue. I start with the most dynamic stretch of the bunch, which I consider to be a combination of cat and child's pose, if you are familiar with yoga.

 photo piriformis stretch 1_zpsj0rjih78.jpg

Pull in your belly button toward your spine, rounding the back. Holding the core in, sit the hips back toward the heels. Hold for 10 seconds. Return to a neutral position. Repeat 10 times.

The second stretch I do is a lying version of the emergency piriformis stretch given to me by the PT. Even though it's not good to lie flat during pregnancy, I've found that I'm more able to release the pressure in the butt from this position.

 photo piriformis stretch 2_zpsmffpf0af.jpg

Lie down and bring one knee toward the shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Rotate the hip and bring knee toward the opposite shoulder, being mindful not to press down on the knee joint. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times one each side.

I finish up with either a seated spinal twist or a seated piriformis stretch.

 photo piriformis stretch 3_zps8bi6hief.jpg

I do either three times on each side, holding for 30 seconds per rep.

Exercises: Stretching is no good if you don't do the exercises necessary to stabilize the hips and low back. The most important one I do is to activate the transverse abdominis, which is a deep muscle of the core. Standing, I soften through the knees, drop the shoulders and release tension in the ribs. On an exhale, I bring the belly button toward the spine. I hold for three breaths – yes, you have to breathe. Release and rest for two breaths. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

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Now that the pain has lessened, I am also beginning to incorporate a few other exercises. The most important, to me, is the bird dog. Next up, are hip thrusts/glute bridges and this hip routine that I learned from a Pilates instructor this summer. These exercises I only do in the evening.

I'm hopeful that, if anything, this prehab/rehab work will set me up for a stellar post-baby comeback.

Odds and ends: Tiger Tail is vying for a $25,000 small business grant from FedEx. If you feel inclined, you can vote HERE. I only share this because I love my Tiger Tail and like to support small businesses. Sharing this information is of my own accord, and I have had my Tiger Tail for a year and a half.

I am sharing these stretches and exercises based on what works for me. If you are experiencing pain, please consult a doctor, therapist or trainer in your area.


  1. Which Tiger Tail product do you use? Or, if you use multiple ones, which one do you think is the most versatile and useful? I'm really intrigued and think that would be just up my alley.

    1. I have the 18-inch Tiger Tail (The Classic). I like it because it's easy enough to travel with but long enough that I can get to the muscles. I'm very interested in trying one of the ball products but haven't gotten around to it yet. Note, it also makes a great sword ... if you are a 3-year-old.

      Link here:

  2. When I first read about your piriformis troubles, I felt bad for you. Now that I slightly strained my own (reaching to grab my phone charger in an awkward position), I am thankful for this little corner of the internet. It feels discouraging, but I am happy to be able to see your blog and get some advice on how to deal :)

    1. What a bummer! I'm glad this is helpful, and I am wishing you a fast recovery.