Low Back Pain? Check the Psoas Muscle First!

June 2, 2012 No Comments

The psoas (pronounced so-az) is located in your low back – specifically on your lumbar spine – and inserts on a bone called the lesser trochanter, which is located on your upper, inner thigh.

When this muscle is fired up (in spasm or slightly contracted), a whole myriad of issues, conditions, aches, and pains show up.  Such as, low back pain; chronic low back pain; a curve in the lumbar spine; a twist in the pelvis; a rotation in the vertebrae; sciatica; and on and on.  All of this can cause you a lot of discomfort to the point that you may not be able to do the simplest of tasks, or, sometimes, it can put you in bed for days or weeks, simply because the tiniest of movement can cause shooting pain everywhere.

And I mean, everywhere.

Why is this?  The psoas is the body balancer.  It is, as you can see from the picture above, at the center of the body – the pelvis region.  When the psoas suddenly becomes tight, inflamed, in spasm, or all of the above, it will pull the lumbar vertebrae forward, overstretch the hamstrings, causing a posterior pelvic tilt.  This structural imbalance can impinge nerves, causing sharp, stabbing, dull, or throbbing pain in the back, buttox, and legs.  Sometimes, pain can even lead up the spine and to the middle to upper back.

It’s not fun.  It’s painful.

When a client comes in to see me with this condition, I make sure to assess the body to see if it is the psoas causing pain or a combination of the psoas and something else.

Once I asses a client, I explain to them what’s going on and the “why” of it.

The why is usually something that the client is doing over and over again to cause the irritation, such as, sitting for long amounts of time, using a lazy boy chair while watching TV, slouching, driving too many hours during the week, sitting at the office for eight hours a day, etc.

When the assessment is complete, I perform stretches, strengthening, and breathing techniques to change the structural imbalance to a structural balance.

Sometimes relief is felt within minutes.

The next step is to keep the structure in place by performing advanced massage techniques.

But, how does the structure “get” out of place anyway?  Throughout the months, years, or even decades, you’ve trained your muscles to contract and stretch in certain ways, over and over again.  For instance, if you sit in a car and lean to the left side every time you drive, then you’re repetitively training your left low back and left hip muscles, especially the psoas (which may twist and pull the left side of your pelvis backward), to pull to the left each time you drive.  If you do this for years, then your muscles will pull to the left – even when you walk.  They’re trained to do so.  It may be subtle, but over time it’s going to cause you a lot of pain and heartache.

So, as a practitioner, my job is to stop your psoas or other muscles from continually pulling the structure out of place.  In a session, we’re seeking balance.  Such as all life seeks.

After the session and when you’re doing your day to day things, it’s your job to figure out what movements you’re repetitively doing that are training your muscles to pull “you” out of whack.

Then, at the next session (yes, there’s more than one session if you want to get better), we train the muscles to stay in balance again and talk about ways to decrease your repetitive movements.

But, trust me, the psoas, in most cases, must be checked first.

- Brandon Ellis, LMT #12645

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“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” - Chinese proverb