Do you have constant low back pain? Have you ever bent down to pick something up or tie your shoes and have your back “go out”? A tight psoas may be to blame.
One of the most common issues we see in the office is some form of psoas spasm, and we consider it one of the most overlooked causes of low back pain. Today, we are going to go over where the psoas is, what it does, and how you can avoid dealing with the pain of a cranky psoas.
First up, where is your psoas muscle? The word psoas comes from the Greek psoa meaning “loin region”. It is a long muscle that begins on one side of your lumbar vertebrae (low back spinal bones) and connects to the inside of your pelvis. It then joins the iliacus muscle and forms the iliopsoas muscle. As with most muscles in the body, you’ve got one on both sides. If we were talking cuts of meat, your psoas would be tenderloin.
So why is this muscle such a problem? The answer to this question stems from its function. Your psoas muscle joins your upper and lower spine, and your legs to your spine. It also crosses from front to back. Essentially, it help holds everything together. It is a major hip flexor, which will either lift your leg towards your body, or bring your body towards your leg. It contributes to raising your body up when you go from laying down to sitting up, and if you only contract one side, it contributes to bending sideways.
A tight psoas can lead to compression of the lumbar discs, which can result in symptoms that are similar to that of a bulging or herniated disc such as burning, shocklike pain. You may also notice difficulty when standing fully erect, and most patients present in a hunched over position. If you have an acute spasm, any type of movement may be painful, owing to the many functions of the psoas muscle.
Now that you know what and where the psoas is, let’s talk about how to reduce spasm and get rid of back pain. First, if you are having a spasm or think your back pain might be from anything discussed here, always visit your chiropractor to discuss options for treatment. A typical treatment plan includes gentle adjustments to the low back to address any spinal or hip shifts that may have caused the spasm, followed by a stretching routine that can be performed at the office and at home to help release the muscle from spasm. Once we get you out of pain and relax the muscle, we will discuss ways to strengthen the surrounding musculature to prevent future issues.
If you aren’t able to get into the office, there are some stretches you can do at home that will temporarily relieve pain you might be feeling from a tight psoas. These stretches are good hip openers and are excellent for general flexibility as well.
For this stretch, place one leg on a bed or bench with the knee bent and place the other foot on the floor with a straight let. Lean forward until you start to feel the stretch in your groin and buttocks. Always make sure to breathe and to not force yourself too far into the stretch.
This stretch is a good one because it brings the muscle’s origin and insertion closer together, which shortens the muscle and allows it to relax. Just lay flat on the floor with your hips flexed to 90⁰, knees bent with legs resting on a chair.
Finally, if you are having a hard time even getting out of bed because your back hurts so bad, scoot to one side of the bed, and keep one leg on the bed, knee bent, while you dangle the other one off the side. Do this for both sides to help stretch everything out.