Working the Psoas: a Bet to Prevent a Stiff Back
you sit in a standard chair, some important postural control muscles are
inactivated, while others are asked to work overtime. The
Hamstrings are shortened by long hours of sitting. Also, during sitting, the
maximus (GM) is relaxed and unable to tension the lumbosacral fascia. The
Erector Spinae (ES) muscle group therefore is made perform the entire lumbar
extension workload. Assuming you are not using a full and appropriately shaped
chair back, your Iliopsoas muscles must pull your torso forward to stop you
falling backward, and they have to do that at the short end of their range of
contractile length. All these triggers are responsible for Iliopsoas muscle
shortening and development of trigger points.
The psoas muscle, is a combination of the iliopsoas, psoas major and psoas
minor muscles. It originates on the lumbar spine, travels over the front of
the pelvis and inserts on the femur. It is the only muscle which directly
core with the legs. Most muscles go core to pelvis or pelvis to legs.
Some basic psoas facts:
The psoas causes low back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc
problems, scoliosis, hip degeneration and
Unresolved trauma can keep the psoas short and reactive
The psoas (pronounced "so - az") primarily flexes the hip and the spinal
The psoas functions as a hip and thigh flexor, which makes it the major
The psoas can torque your spine to the right or left, pull it forward
and twist the pelvis into various distortions
When the psoas is stuck in contraction
stretches can tighten the muscle even more
The psoas is a major part of your body's defensive physiology which
responds to danger with flight, fight or freeze.
Exercises to Work Psoas Muscle
The Psoas crunch: Kneel on all fours, extend your left arm and right leg out
and then crunch them in bringing your right elbow towards your left knee. Round
your back, exhale and pull your belly button hard up to your spine as you crunch
in, hold for two seconds and repeat. To add variety support your arms on an
exercise-ball instead of the floor or turn over and do this exercise lying on
The Psoas Stretch: Put your front foot on a low bench, turn your back foot
out and press your
hips forward and toward the floor. Hold for 20 seconds. You should feel this
stretch on the front side of your hip/inner thigh of your rear leg.
Heel Slide: Beginning with both feet on floor, draw your belly button in
toward your spine and exhale while sliding your left foot away from you.
Maintain the weight of your leg on the floor (do not lift your leg off the
floor). Stop if you feel back pain or feel your lower back arching up from the
floor. You can monitor this by putting your fingers on either side of your lower
spine to sense whether it is arching. Once you've reached the point where you
feel pain or your lower back arches, stop and inhale. Exhale while sliding your
foot back to a bent-knee position. Repeat on right side. Continue alternating
sides until you experience back pain or fatigue or you cannot maintain a flat
spine. To progress this exercise, gradually begin with both feet further from
your body until both legs can be fully extended while your lower spine is either
flat, controlled, or pain free.
Lying on the floor, place right foot on the left knee. Using your left hand,
gently pull your right knee towards the floor, twisting your spine and keeping
left arm straight out, hips and shoulders on the floor. Switch sides.
Click here for more on symptoms and management.
Keep in mind that the way we stand, walk and sit can distort the psoas. If
we walk or stand with our chin in an overly forward position the muscle will
tighten. Sitting through much of the day at the office, car or elsewhere causes
the muscle to shorten to keep us bio-mechanically balanced in our chairs. Over
time we develop a "normal" way of holding the psoas that is dysfunctional. Until
the psoas is released the muscle may stay contracted and go into further
shortening and spasm very easily.
Dated 01 December 2011