Glute Pain: Is Your Piriformis Is To Blame?


You’ve developed glute pain. You did some research. And it seems like your piriformis is to “too short”, “too tight” or “overactive”, and that is the reason for your pain. While it may be true that your piriformis is short, tight, or highly active – often these are not the root of the issue.

And treating these symptoms will only affect the symptoms, not the thing that is making you have symptoms. Which means the symptoms will return again and again until the root issue is dealt with.

It’s not as if you got a defective piriformis that is flaring up all kinds of pain in you. There are three specific issues to explore if you’re dealing with pain in your glutes. Improve these and you’ll improve the way your hips and glutes feel and function…

Problem Number One:
You Don’t Explore
Your Full Range Of Motion Every Day

Healthy tissue expresses itself as supple, pliable, and capable of functioning in a variety of ranges.

When you don’t use your complete range of motion of your hip on a regular basis, you’ll slowly start losing the ability to move it through its complete range of motion.

And this can create all manner of soft tissue issues like aches, pains, and dysfunction.

Think about your daily movements. Even if you’re walking a fair bit, squatting and bending a bit during your work day, and doing some kind of exercise regularly – you’re still likely only using a tiny fraction of the ranges of motion that is possible for the hip joint.

The hip is capable of a significant degree of rotation in addition to being able to flex, extend, abduct, and adduct. It’s imperative that you move your hip through that range of motion regularly if you want to have the tissues that make up the hip and glute healthy and fully functional.

Your body always responds to the signals it receives.

hip mobility

Problem Number Two:
Your Hips Don’t Function Well

You don’t live in a vacuum. If one Pillar of your body isn’t working well, another Pillar has to adjust to that. When your glutes and hips lose basic function, somewhere else in your body will try to make up for it. These compensatory patterns are a normal part of ‘living with dysfunction’.

But ‘normal’ does not mean ‘good’. To stop the compensatory patterns, you simply need to make it so your body does not need to compensate. 


Gray Cook is known for sharing his ‘Joint By Joint’ approach. Put simply, it’s a way to look at each joint in the body and determine how it should function and why it might not function like that.

The Joint By Joint approach says, ‘if one joint needs to be more mobile, the joints above and below it need to be more stable. If the joint that is meant to be mobile isn’t, then the joints above and below are likely going to have to reduce stability to prop up the mobility that’s missing from the intended-to-be-mobile joint.’

So in the case of the piriformis, hips, and glutes…

The hips are built to be mobile. Your piriformis attaches to your sacrum, which is at the base of the spine (only the coccyx is below it).

If the hips become immobile, the lumbar spine is likely to have to shift from being stable (what it’s built to do) into being more mobile in order to compensate for the hips.

This can create problems for everything surrounding this area, including the development of aches, pains, and injuries.

Make your Six Pillars appropriately mobile, stable, and strong, and you’ll have a far greater foundation fro which to move and play through life.

Problem Number Three:
You Send Lots Of One Signal,
And Not Much Of Any Other Signals

Your nervous system governs what happens in your body. It decides how you’ll move, how your flex your muscles, and how much range of motion you’ll have (amongst about a bazillion other totally cool things your nervous system oversees).

When you don’t teach your nervous system how to respond to a variety of situations – things like joint angles, tissue lengths, and force levels – the circle of safe movement you have access to shrinks.

This can create an environment for both overuse and acute “random” injuries to happen. When your movement variability is sub-optimal, your risk for injury goes up.

Movement Variability

Your ability to organize your joints and tissues in such a manner as to be able to successfully handle the variations that occur in motor performance over the span of multiple repetitions over time.

But there are an incredible number of possible positions, joint angles, and force levels your body could experience. So are you supposed to practice them all? No. You’d spend all day trying to do so, not to mention that these micro-shifts in joint angles and tissues lengths are on the micro- level, quite often they’re not perceptible to your naked eye.

You can start improving your movement variability today in two ways…

In addition to ensuring you move all your joints through their range of motion every day, you can add more free play and free movement into your program. 

When you or a coach requires your body to adhere to very specific directions for performing a movement, it can actually close down your ability to make those micro- adjustments in your movement.

It is helpful to give loose guidelines for movement and let your body explore within those guidelines, rather that adhering to a highly rigid list of commands for executing a movement. If you know nothing about even the fundamentals of ‘how to move your body’, this is where hiring a coach to guide your journey can be helpful.

In addition to ‘exercise’ as a form of movement, free play is also a valuable tool for learning how to move more of your body through more ranges of motion. With play, there is no agenda other than “free”, “play”, and “fun” (or all three at the same time) 😉

Need ideas for free movement and free play? Feel free to explore my Instagram feed and select something I’m showing that you’d like to try! The idea with free movement and play though is to not force your body to do anything it’s not ready to do yet. Kids playing don’t force themselves to do anything they can’t do, and you don’t need to do that either when you’re playing.


The three issues I’ve just shared with you help you start addressing the root issues of your hips and how to make them move well.

If you’d like to pursue more focused work on this, get together with a coach or a program that will help you address these issues and build mobility, stability, and strength, from here forward. The Unbreakable Body helps you do that, or select something that resonates best with you if not that.


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