Tight piriformis muscles cause hip pain by pinching on the sciatic nerve running from the spine through the hips, so stretching takes tension off the muscle and relieves the pinched sciatic nerve, reports Spine-health. The piriformis muscle pinches on this nerve when it is inflamed, swollen or bleeding.
Piriformis syndrome is a condition where the piriformis muscle tightens and presses on the sciatic nerve, states Spine-health. The sciatic nerve runs diagonally under the piriformis muscle, but may actually run through the muscle in some individuals. Inflammation of the muscle results in buttock and hip pain, but can also cause leg pain and numbness. Physical therapies for piriformis syndrome include stretches of the piriformis in order to take tension off the muscle and stop impingement of the sciatic nerve.
Certain physical therapy exercises relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve due to tight piriformis muscles, advises Spine-health. The patient may lay on his back with feet on the ground and knees bent, then pull his right knee to the left shoulder gently, and repeat with the left knee to the right shoulder. A variation of this stretch involves placing the right ankle on the left knee, then pulling the left knee to the left shoulder. Hamstring stretches are also recommended to treat sciatic nerve pain due to piriformis syndrome. Stretches should be held for roughly 30 seconds.