Is the piriformis your missing link

What is the piriformis?

The piriformis is a very interesting muscle for most people involved in improving movement patterns, whether that is a therapist or a golf instructor. It is only a relatively small muscle, it’s not particularly strong when compared to a glute or a quad muscle and is rarely the main agonist. It does, however, steal the show when it becomes dysfunctional.

It originates from the anterior surface of the sacrum and inserts into the greater trochanter of the femur. If this muscle goes into spasm there are a number side effects:

  1. Sciatic nerve pain (piriformis syndrome).
  2. ‘locked’ sacroiliac joint.
  3. Inhibited external rotation and hip adduction (flexed hip joint) through tightness.
  4. Inhibited internal rotation and hip abduction (flexed hip joint) through weakness.

How does that affect you as a golfer?

If we look further into the first two of the above issues caused by the muscle;

Sciatic nerve pain (piriformis syndrome)

Obviously, sciatic nerve pain is not a nice thing to suffer if you ask anyone who has had it, you wouldn’t be able to walk far with this let alone play golf. If there isn’t any pain it doesn’t mean that the sciatic nerve isn’t inhibited somehow. This will have a negative impact on your speed and range of movement in your swing as your body will be trying to protect itself

Locked sacroiliac joint

The locked SIJ is a great contributor to movement dysfunction. You could have an SIJ locked forward it will make the leg functionally longer than the other side. You can also have it locked backwards causing the leg to function shorter. The fun starts when your body compensates for this position. You will subconsciously line your eyes up to the horizon whilst keeping your head over the centre of your pelvis which is now tilted to one side or the other, meaning your feet, knees, spine and shoulders will have to change in order for you to keep head centred.

Swing faults caused by this include:

  • Sway away
  • Reverse spine angle
  • Limited weight transfer
  • Early extension
  • Over the top
  • Hanging back

How to manage it

The first thing you need to do is have it assessed, until you know why it is not functioning properly you cannot correct it. You may need to seek a professional to help you with this. You will also need to take into consideration why it isn’t functioning and so assessing the relevant; muscles, joints and nerves, is also advised so that an effective programme will not only get the Piriformis functioning, it will prevent it from regressing.


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