Most of us spend the majority of our Monday through Friday in a less-than-active job.  Even with daily fitness and some intermittent movement, our posture takes a beating.  As such, I'm inviting your to join me on Fridays for a stretching/flexibility session that helps you relax into your weekend and shake off the "work week-ness" (yup - I love bad puns).


Seated Piriformis Stretch:

Posterior view of the right piriformis

Posterior view of the right piriformis

Note the relationship between the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve.

Note the relationship between the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve.

This piriformis muscle is an extremely important hip external rotator (think toe out) and extensor (kicking the leg back). It is also highly related to low back and hip health.  The piriformis lies deep the gluteus max and right on top of the sciatic nerve.  When this muscle gets tight and dysfunctional, it can change how the hip and sacrum move and can contribute to low back pain - even causing symptoms that radiate down the leg (similar to sciatica).   As such, stretching it can be a quick source of relief from low back stiffness and can allow you to improve/alleviate nerve symptoms in the leg.

*Note: If you are dealing with sciatic symptoms, please be cautious - too frequent stretching or too strong of a stretch can actually irritate the nerve more as it will be compressed further during the stretch.

To perform the stretch, begin by sitting in a chair. Then cross one ankle on top of the opposite knee.  Press the top knee down as you bend forward at the waist.  You'll feel a strong stretch along the outside/back of the hip joint.  Some people describe this as a "burning" sensation rather than a stretch.  This is normal - but be aware of your limits and do not force the motion beyond a gentle to moderate stretch.

Hold for 30-45 seconds.

Then relax (and ideally switch legs).

Repeat 3-4 times per leg.

The best thing about this stretch: you can perform it intermittently throughout the day while at your desk! (This is PT gold people - we love multitasking!)


Prone press up:

View of a vertebral segment (two vertebrae and the disc between)

View of a vertebral segment (two vertebrae and the disc between)

With all the slouching that most of are guilty of doing weekly, its essential to get some extension back in the lumbar spine.  Each of the vertebrae in the back are designed to glide on the vertebra above and below.  When we slouch, we're in a flexed position and the natural curve of the lumbar spine is flattened/reversed.  This position/posture is known as flexion of the lumber spine. To balance this repetitive flexion motion, addingsome extension in the lumbar spine is ideal and a great way to end the week (or each workday if you're an over-achiever - hint hint).

Sideview of the motion at the disc with extension and flexion of the spine (graphic representation)

Sideview of the motion at the disc with extension and flexion of the spine (graphic representation)

Lay on your stomach on a supportive surface (the floor works great).  Place your hands by your shoulders and slowly press up while leaving the hips/pelvis down and in contact with the floor.  The arms do not have to fully extend, rather you only press up as high as you can without pain in the low back.  Be sure to breath and relax while in the stretch.

Starting position - note hand placement

Starting position - note hand placement

Note the extension throughout the spine (including the extension of the neck and the lift of the head).  Ignore: the dog that insisted on photo-bombing this despite 12 photo attempts....

Note the extension throughout the spine (including the extension of the neck and the lift of the head).

Ignore: the dog that insisted on photo-bombing this despite 12 photo attempts....

Hold for 20-30 seconds.  (Don't forget to breathe!).  Do 2-3 repetitions after a long day at the desk.

 

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