Psoas tension is a common condition in a lot of people. Many of the things we do during the day can cause our psoas muscles (we have one on each side) to become chronically shortened and often times as much as 3 inches shorter than optimal.
One of the main things that can cause a shortened psoas is sitting. If considered how much time we sit while eating breakfast, driving to work, perhaps sitting at work, then driving home, eating dinner and then putting our feet up to relax and watch a little TV, we might realize that a major part of our day is in fact spent sitting.
Why Does This Matter?
The psoas muscles attach to the transverse processes of the lowest thoracic vertebrae and also to all of the lumbar vertebrae. They then wrap around the front side of your trunk and attach to the top of your femur on the top of the inside of your leg. All in all, between the attachments on the transverse processes and also the attachments to the lumbar intervertebral discs, there are 20 attachments on the spine and 2 on the femurs.
As the main stabilizer of the body, the psoas moves the top of the body and it moves the lower part of the body. But, when we spend a lot of time sitting it reduces our psoas ability to extend to its full length, which is crucial for being able to stand and walk in correct alignment. When we are not standing and walking in correct alignment it affects a process called your “loading behavior” which in turn affects the health of your joints, as explained very well by Katy Bowman, a well-known bio mechanical scientist, in one of her recent blog posts at www.alignedand well.com.
On top of all of this – some of the healthy exercise programs that many engage in may also cause the psoas to be further shortened. These include cycling, stair-stepping and sitting on weight machines. In fact Katy describes the bio mechanics of walking on a treadmill towards the end of her blog entry - Can This Psoas Be Saved, explaining how even this healthy cardio workout also contributes to a shortened psoas.
To the rescue – Katy suggests an easy lunge to help stretch the psoas back to the pre shortened length. To see the full exercise - see her entry Have Psoas Will Travel.
It is important to keep the knee over your ankle and your torso should stay upright. The photo of the woman has better form, but I like the skeletal view because you can see how it stretches the psoas and why it works.
So, the best defense against a shortened psoas is to alternate this stretch between long periods of sitting and your use of cycling, treadmill, or stair – stepping machines. Of course these exercise activities can be beneficial, as long as you balance the psoas shortening affect with the psoas stretching lunge. Now you will have the benefit of both.
You will notice relief in no time, no matter how much it may be shortened. Your back, hips, knees and even neck and shoulders will thank you. Now when you came into to my office for relief from your pain it will last much longer if you are balancing your psoas shortening behaviors with psoas stretching.
To schedule your next appointment at Body Wisdom LLC CranioSacral Therapy and Reiki call 715-571-6000.