In fact, whatever movement you create, your Psoas muscles are involved. Your Psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and your legs. They affect your posture and help to stabilize your spine.
The Psoas muscles are made up of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres and because they are major flexors, weak Psoas muscles can cause many of the surrounding muscles to compensate and become overused. That is why a tight or overstretched Psoas muscle could be the cause of many of your aches and pains, including low back and pelvic pain.
Structurally, your Psoas muscles are the deepest muscles in your core. They attach from your 12th thoracic vertebrae to your 5th Lumbar vertebrae, through your pelvis and then finally attach to your femurs. In fact, they are the only muscles that connect your spine to your legs.
Your Psoas muscles allow you to flex your hips and legs towards your chest, for example when you are going up stairs. They also help to move your leg forward when you walk or run.
Your Psoas muscles are responsible for flexing your trunk forward when you bend over to pick up something from the floor. They also stabilize your trunk and spine during movement and whilst sitting.
These complex muscles also support your internal organs and work like hydraulic pumps allowing blood and lymph to be pushed in and out of your cells.
Your Psoas muscles are vital not only to your structural well-being, but also to your psychological well-being because of their connection to your breath.
There are two tendons for the diaphragm (crura) that extend down and connect to the spine alongside where the Psoas muscles attach. One of the ligaments (medial acuate) wraps around the top of each Psoas. Also, the diaphragm and the Psoas muscles are connected through fascia that also connects the other hip muscles.
These connections between the Psoas muscle and the diaphragm literally connect your ability to walk and breathe, and also how you respond to fear and excitement. That’s because, when you are startled or under stress, your Psoas contracts. In other words, your Psoas has a direct influence on your fight or flight response !
During prolonged periods of stress, your Psoas is constantly contracted. The same contraction occurs when you;
Sit for long periods of time.
Engage in excessive running or walking
Sleep in the fetal position
Do an excessive number of sit-ups.
All of these activities compress the front of your hip and shorten your Psoas muscle. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should automatically stretch your Psoas if you have pain in the front of your hip joint.
The key is to know whether your Psoas is short and tight and thus in need of stretching, or if it’s weak and overstretched and in need of strengthening.
When you have a tight (or short) Psoas muscle, you may experience pain in your lower back or in your hips, especially when lifting your legs. This is caused by the muscle compressing the discs in the lumbar region of your back.
Stretching your muscles and releasing the tension on the Psoas is the best way to prevent this from happening. It takes time and daily attention to keep your Psoas muscles relaxed, stretched and strong.
And, while most people with Psoas issues have tight Psoas muscles, there are some people whose Psoas muscles can be overstreched. In this case,if you stretch your Psoas and it is already overstretched, you will cause more problems.
Your body will tell you what your Psoas ultimately needs. Here are 7 ways to tell if you have a Psoas muscle imbalance.
Leg length discrepancy. A tight Psoas muscle can cause your pelvis to rotate forward. This in turn can cause an internal rotation of your leg on the affected side. The opposite leg will rotate externally in an effort to counter-balance.This will make the affected leg longer so that every time you take a step, it drives your leg up into your hip socket. This can lead to functional leg length discrepancy.
Knee and low back pain. If you experience knee or low back pain with no apparent cause, it may be coming from your Psoas muscles. When your femur is in essence locked into your hip socket due to a tight Psoas muscle, rotation in the joint can’t occur. This can cause your knee and low back to torque.
Postural problems. When your psoas is too short or tight, it can pull your pelvis into an anterior tilt, compressing the spine and pulling your back into hyperlordosis or “duck butt.”If your psoas is overstretched or weak, it can flatten the natural curve of your lumbar spine creating a “flat butt.” This misalignment is characterized by tight hamstrings pulling down on the sitting bones, which causes the sacrum to lose its natural curve and results in a flattened lumbar spine. This can lead to low-back injury, especially at the intervertebral discs. You may also feel pain at the front of your hip. Finally, it is possible for your psoas muscles to be both tight and overstretched. In this case, your pelvis is pulled forward in front of your center of gravity, causing your back to curve (swayback) and your head to poke forward.
Difficulty moving your bowels. A tight Psoas muscle can contribute to or even cause constipation. A large network of lumbar nerves and blood vessels passes through and around the Psoas muscles. Tightness in the Psoas muscles can impede blood flow and nerve impulses to the pelvic organs and legs. In addition, when the Psoas is tight your torso shortens decreasing the space for your internal organs. This affects food absorption and elimination.
Menstrual Cramps. An imbalance in your Psoas muscles can be partially responsible for menstrual cramps as it puts added pressure in your reproductive organs.
Chest breathing. A tight Psoas muscle can create a thrusting forward of the ribcage. This causes shallow, chest breathing, which limits the amount of oxygen taken in and encourages over usage of your neck muscles.
Feeling exhausted. Your Psoas muscles create a muscular shelf that your kidneys and adrenals rest on. As you breathe properly your diaphragm moves and your Psoas muscles gently massage these organs, stimulating blood circulation. But, when the Psoas muscles become imbalanced, so do your kidneys and adrenal glands, causing physical and emotional exhaustion. In fact, “The Psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened Psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”
Here are some tips for getting things back in balance:
Avoid sitting for extended periods. If you must sit for work or other reasons, sit with good posture and be sure your hips are level or slightly higher than your knees. Avoid bucket seats and chairs without support for your low back. Try to get up and move around every hour.
Add support to your car seat. Use a rolled up towel underneath your sit bones and/ or behind your lumbar spine to keep the psoas and hip sockets released. If you are traveling long distances, stop every 3 hours to stretch and walk around for 10 minutes.
Try Resistance Flexibility exercises. Resistance Flexibility exercises can do wonders for your fascia.
Take constructive rest. The Constructive Rest Position (CRP) can relieve low back, pelvic and hip tension while it allows your entire body to come into neutral. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel to each other. Place your heels a comfortable distance from your buttocks – or about 16 inches away. Do not push your low back into the floor or tuck your pelvis. Rest your arms over your belly. Let gravity do the work. Doing this for 10 to 20 minutes every day will release tension in your psoas muscles and help to reestablish the neuro-biological rhythms that calm and refresh.
If your pelvis is anteriorly rotated or moving toward the front of your body, this means that your psoas muscles may be short and tight. If your pelvis is posteriorly tilted toward the back of your body. This means that your psoas muscles may be overstretched and weak.
Release stress and past traumas. We store stress in our bodies. Tension in the hips is common and it’s usually not just caused by lifestyle, age and physical events, such as injuries or accidents, but also due to mental stress and unhealed traumas. Releasing stress daily can help keep your Psoas healthy. . Finally, get out and do something pleasurable every day!