Meet Your Psoas..

Psoas muscle

The Psoas (SO-AS) is a muscle of the body. One of the largest, thickest and deepest muscles in the body.  This deep muscle is on both sides of the body, extending out of the 12th thoracic vertebrae to the 5 lumbar vertebrae, down through the core of the abdominals to attach at top of the femur, or thigh bone. It is the muscle responsible for connecting the spine of our bodies to our legs, forward flexion, supporting the spine (with aid of the abdominal muscles), and more.  Think lifting your knee up to your chest…this action is performed by the psoas.  This deep muscle is also very sensitive to emotional states.  So keeping the Psoas healthy and strong is very important, otherwise many major effects can occur in the body. Healthy refers to not only strengthening and lengthening, but stress management and control.

Tension in the Psoas, chronic contraction either from constant, repetitive action or stress has the ability to significantly compromise structural integrity and bodily functioning. A weakened or overused Psaoas can create lower back and lumbar pain. Being my last post  talked about the importance of low back health, I wanted to touch on the importance of a healthy Psoas.  Often times people with low back pain will do strengthening exercises and stretches to relieve the pain, but find little benefit.  The Psoas can be a contributing factor to low back pain.  I’ve seen this often.  Especially being that so often people are sitting for prolonged periods of time, the Psoas shortens. When it is in the same shortened positioned for lengths of time it gets used to being in shortened, tight state. This creates a forward pull on our lower back and an anterior tilt in out pelvis, which enhances a low back arch.  This in turn puts pressure and weight on our intervertebral discs (the shock absorbing discs between the vertebrae).  This results in increased pain, occurrence of injury and more.

Now that you have the low down on the Psoas Muscle, let’s talk about what to do to release it.

How to Release a Tight Psoas

There are many things that you can do to help releive a tight Psoas. Awareness of the muscle is a start.  Release of this muscle will be a combination of stretches and lengthening techniques, as well taking care of your mental and emotional being. Being regularly stressed out increases the tightness and tension in our physical bodies.  Again becoming aware of your body  and mind is the beginning to release.

  • Move Often.  Do you sit a lot…all day?  This shortens the muscle. So make it a habit and a point to stand up numerous times throughout the day and move around. Here’s something that I find helpful.  Drink more water. Bring a water bottle with you and sdrink and refill as much as you can.  You will have to get up to refill the bottle and you will have to get up to use the bathroom often.  Although this seems annoying, it’s not because you know have the perfect reason to get up and move around.  Regular movement will keep the Psoas from regularly being in the shortened/contracted state.
  • Stretch.  Focus on stretching the psoas and hip flexors daily.  Maybe make it part of your morning or evening routine.  The extra 5-10 minutes of stretching your Psoas will help eliminate hours of pain. It’s worth it.  See Psoas Stretches.
  • Manage Stress. The Psoas has been referred to as our fight or flight muscle. It is responsible for holding much of our emotional stress and pain. When your are in a stressful situation or upset, sad or angry, you  can unconsciously contract your psoas.  Being aware of these things and managing your stress and tension will truly help with releasing the psoas. In the stretches outlined for the psoas, make sure you are breathing into your tightness and tension to create your release. Becoming aware of when you feel contracted from stress and then taking a moment to relax the body is a step in the right direction for psoas release.

To a healthy “unstressed” Psoas!