Lower back pain? What about your psoas?
The psoas or iliopsoas muscles lay buried behind your abdominal muscles and you intenstines. This is probably the biggest reason why people don’t know the function of the psoas or even the existence of the psoas. The psoas is one of the most underestimated muscles in the whole body, but super important because they start at the beginning of your last rib and continuing down to the pelvis.
The primary action of the psoas is to flex the hips. A movement we do a lot in CrossFit and in our daily life. Running, walking, squatting… Just a few examples of movements were we have to use the psoas a lot!
But now that we know the existence of the psoas, lets take a look on how to find that muscle.
The best way to find it first is with your fingers. Place your fingers just off the outer edge of the rectus abdominus (your six pack abs). Press deeply in and toward the spine. Feel for a rounded firmness running parallel to the rectus abdominis. It may help if you raise your head for a moment to contract the rectus abdominis.
A tense psoas will feel like a thin pepperoni. If the muscle doesn’t have any trigger points, it will be soft and hard to find. If you want to contract this muscle, flex the hip by bringing your knee toward your opposite shoulder.
!!! Caution: if you feel a heavy pulse when you are working on your left psoas, you found your descending aorta. Move slightly to the outside. You can do psoas massage safely without affecting the aorta.
But what influence has a tight psoas to my lower back pain?
A tense psoas will want to bring your lower back forward, moving you into an anterior tilt (hyperextension of your lower back).
A contracted psoas can also compress the joints and sics of the lumbar vertebrae. This will cause degeneration.
Another problem that could cause heavy pain in your lower back is a tight right or left psoas. This will pull your left or right side of your hip to a dominant side. This could get so bad, that it will lead to scoliosis. Like we said before, your psoas has a big influence on your hip and your posterior chain is also attached to the pelvic. So a short psoas will also stop the activation of your glutes while squatting, push pressing…
So now that we know the effect of the psoas on our lower back pain, it is time to solve this problem of prevent it. We will start to give a few tips on how to prevent that your psoas will get tight:
–Stop sleeping on your stomach:
when you sleep on your stomach, your back goes into hyperextension witch causes an anterior tilt.
Also straighten your legs when you sleep, this will deactivate your psoas.
–Move more or stand up a few times:
sitting all day on a chair will cause a tight psoas. So get up once in a while and stretch yourself to prevent that your psoas will cramp up.
-Stop hooking your feet under you chair
you will put yourself in more hip flexion, so more psoas activation. Set your feet flat on the floor or on a raised platform if you are not that tall.
This is probably the most important one. If you stand or sit, some people tend to over extend their back. Be aware of your posture and get your back flat. Also move into different position all the time. Do not stay in the same sitting position for more than 5minutes.
These are a few tips on how to prevent a tight psoas, but what if it is already to late for you and you have a lot of trigger points in your psoas?
Then it is time to do some mobility drills to get back that relaxed psoas you always wanted.
In our next episode we will give you a few tools to mobilize your psoas.
Stay tuned for more and get rid of your lower back pain!
Written by: Joachim Callebaut