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Why Piriformis Syndrome Exercises Don’t Work (and what to do)

piriformis syndrome exercises not working

One of the main reasons why clients join my programs has been that NOTHING has worked for them. They’ve done all kinds of exercises specific to piriformis syndrome (usually given to them by their physio). And they’re still suffering and having spams every day.

So I decided to put this post together to help you understand why these piriformis exercises haven’t been working and what to do instead.

There is part 2 of this blog post where I share with you how to heal piriformis syndrome as fast as possible. Please click here to get to that post. It’ll open up in a new tab so you’ll stay here to finish this one.

Some of the most common piriformis syndrome, strengthening exercises are:

  • The clamshell
  • Planks
  • Side leg lifts
  • Bridges
  • Lying leg lifts

Sound familiar?

Well these are the same exercises physio-therapists have given me personally and the exact same exercises they’ve been giving to every person with piriformis syndrome. I keep wondering if they should just hand out printouts of these exercises at the first visit. That would save everyone time and money…Oh wait, they do that!… You just have to keep coming to repeat those same exercises while the physio is in the other room (dealing with another patient), and you’re charged for the whole hour.

SMH (shaking my head).

Now, I’m not saying these exercises are bad. These are GREAT hip strengthening exercises. But you’re not gonna fix all your hip problems with a list of 5 exercises done every day.

And repeating a long list of exercises and stretches sometimes aggravates the condition even further.

So let me explain to you in detail why your current exercises or stretches haven’t been working, then I’ll make a few suggestions to lead you in the right direction.

I’ve created a full video to talk about this…but scroll down to read the highlights of the video (plus some additional notes I thought of after I made the video).

Why Piriformis Syndrome Exercises Don’t Work Most Of The Time

Body Awareness Builds Overtime

Most of us run our days on auto-pilot.  We take little to no time to practice mind-body techniques. We are not in tune with our bodies.  When we are out of touch with our bodies, the journey to build that awareness starts with trial and error, exploration and discovery.

  • You start doing certain exercises and find out that your body is not responding well to some. You wonder why…
  • You find out that you are tighter than usual, and need to stretch more, or
  • You find out that your body developed weaknesses, and you actually need to ease up on the stretching and strengthen more.
  • You start analyzing your posture, addressing misalignment, and modifying your sitting and standing positions (which takes time).
  • You start noticing that certain foods make you bloat and cause inflammation. Now you are exploring nutrition and anti-inflammatory diets.
  • You incorporate some meditation into your life and start feeling the tension that builds up in your body and muscles. You had no idea this was happening before.

So, my friend, it’s totally normal if you are not seeing instant results after doing a few stretches.  It is part of the process.

The goal is to NOT let that bring you down and cause you to lose hope in everything else. 

5 Minute of Stretching Won’t Fix a Lifetime of Bad Habits

We cannot delegate our health problems.Click to Tweet

When I first started having all these health issues, I expected therapists to fix me.

I just wanted them to take my money, and fix the pain. Of course, I had no idea what was going on with me… but I didn’t know what else to do. It seemed the only option was to visit a sports therapy clinic and delegate my problems.

This mindset changed drastically one day…

I went to the physio clinic (where I’ve been going for months), and my therapist worked for a whole hour on the wrong hip.  She forgot which hip was hurting.  When I asked she did say she forgot…

Aren’t they supposed to review the patient’s file before the visit?


I went home feeling so alone that evening. The only person who truly cared for me…was me.

I’m not saying that all physicians are careless like that, but they are very busy people. They see hundreds of patients weekly. We can’t expect them to think about each patient and remember each case and invest all their energy into fixing our health problems.

The only person who is responsible for those things is me. 

I started taking responsibility and taking control of the quality of the food I eat, my posture, my mental well-being.

The body will go through years of bad postural habits and a sedentary lifestyle to start giving you pain. The threshold of pain is reached after many years of the body trying to manage, compensate and do what it can to keep things functioning properly without pain.

Progressive Overload

One of the best ways to build strength without injuring or over working a muscle is progressive overload.

I am a huge fan of designing corrective exercise plans with very few exercises (2-3) to make sure no pain is triggered…

Then adding challenge through one of these ways:

  • Adding more repetitions or a full set to the existing exercises
  • Adding more resistance (a resistance band or making the exercise harder)
  • Adding a whole new exercise (once the current 2-3 exercises have been mastered)

That last bullet right there is where most people fail. They think by doing more, they’ll fix things faster. Right?

The members inside the Back Pain Bootcamp are surprised when they see how short the routines are… and members notice huge improvements.

One of the biggest advantages of doing less is that you’re able to stay consistent without flare-ups. Piriformis syndrome is one of the most frustrating chronic conditions ever experienced, and because the piriformis muscle is a deep gluteal muscle, it’s very hard to not engage it when you’re trying to strengthen the glute medius or glute Maximus.

If it’s chronically tight, you don’t want to over do it with exercises.

Now moving on to what you should do…

Investigating the Root Cause Of Piriformis Syndrome

Our world is so abundant in symptoms-focused treatments. When was last time you visited a chiropractor or physio and the following happened:

They’ve asked you after their physical assessment:

  • What your occupation is (to assess your current lifestyle)
  • What your current diet is like
  • How many times you exercise
  • Your current stress level (if any big stressful events are happening in your life)
  • If you’ve done any scans and if you should

Then… told you exactly what’s causing and triggering the pain (with a clear explanation that you can leave their office and explain it clearly to someone else).

Without knowing what is the root cause, you’ll probably be spending a big chunk of your time trying our so many different things.  Of course, we want to ease up the pain and reduce the symptoms, but spending the majority of your efforts trying to manage the pain will never solve the source of the pain. And clinics LOVE staying focused on pain management.

Tracking and Monitoring Your Progress

You need to re-assess your current routine every 3 weeks. Notice if there are any improvements (even if these improvements are very small).

If you’ve been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome and were given exercises to do… It’s important to go back and repeat the very first exercise routine you started with and monitor your progress. Do the exercises feel way easier now? are you able to do more repetitions?

And how has your pain improved? are you having less flare-ups?

Everything counts.

I’ve included a full assessment sheet inside the Back Pain Bootcamp, in addition to a step-by-step assessment tutorial to help you pinpoint your muscular imbalances…

Check out the Back Pain Bootcamp here.

Lastly, I want to say that pain is just a messenger.  If you eat something bad and get a stomach-ache afterward, you know that it’s an indicator that the food was contaminated, or your body is having issues digesting whatever you’re eating.

You don’t blame your stomach for giving you pain. Without the stomach-ache, you’d have no idea you’re having food poisoning.

Your body gives you signals (pain) to get your attention. Pain is your body’s intelligent response to external stressors (environmental, physical and emotional).

You made it this far! I hope this post was informative and helpful.  I’d love to hear your feedback and if you have any questions, ask away below in the comments area 🙂

Go deeper: get my personal help inside the Back Pain Bootcamp

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