One muscle that is rather infamous (through no fault of it’s own) is the psoas muscle – it’s a silent P when pronouncing it. This muscle attaches to the transverse processes and lateral aspect of the discs (the side) of the spine at T12 through to L4, then runs through the hips and attaches to the inside of our upper leg. As you can see below It’s a pretty big old thing and it also attaches to your diaphragm and your kidneys. Kind of important right?
Now you always see posts about people stretching their psoas, releasing their psoas as it often gets “tight”. However, 9 times out of 10 this is exactly the wrong thing to do and at best this will provide temporary relief, but at worst this may create an adverse reaction.
Muscles that cross multiple joints tend towards inhibition as they can often struggle to perform the role that they are meant to if there is an imbalance somewhere – it is really easy for them to become stressed out. Remember that “tightness” is just a sign that something isn’t working as efficiently as it should be. Unfortunately when the psoas isn’t working as it should be it can create a whole host of problems because of where it is.
There are links between having a “tight” psoas and period pain, abdominal migraines, it can link into abnormal postures, and when it gets really tight cause nerve irritation or nerve entrapment. A whole bunch of nerves that innervate the front of your thigh, the top of your groin, and around the genitals (the nerves of the lumbar plexus) pass through the psoas muscle. So when this muscle becomes really tight it can cause nerve irritation or entrapment of any, some, or all of these nerves. Additionally if the diaphragm on the same side becomes restricted this will “pull” on the diaphragm on the same side creating more tension, as well as creating a domino effect through the rest of your hip flexors. (If you have a dysfunctional, tight psoas you can almost guarantee that the rest of the hip flexors will also be tight). Oh and don’t forget this attaches to the discs in your back – so do you think if you have a “slipped disc” between T12 and L4 that the psoas is likely working properly or not?
Recently we have seen a couple of people in clinic with chronic lower back and hip pain that unfortunately have all the indications of a really unhappy, stressed out, tight psoas that is causing that individual a myriad of problems. What not to do in these cases? Release the psoas. It is tight for a reason, first you need to work out the reason that it is tight and then give it no reason to be tight any more. If a muscles is so tight that it is als
o causing a nerve entrapment it is almost always neurologically inhibited and in these cases releasing it or trying to stretch it is only going to make the problem worse. Get assessed by someone who will work out what is going on and why the problem is there in the first place, and then work on correcting the problem. In both of the individuals that have presented with this in the last week or so they have had abdominal / back surgery and consequently they both struggle to stabilise their lumbar spine (lower back) effectively. Coincidence? I’ll let you make up your own mind.
Want more detail? Well below there is a link to a super detailed article written on this topic to read if you still want more info. But what do you think? Still a good idea to be consistently, indiscriminately, stretching out that psoas? If this is you then get in contact to see if we can help you.