Lower Back Pain & the Psoas 🇬🇧
Do you feel pain in your lower back when trying to get up in the morning?
Or anytime you try to stand up?
This article may just be for you!
Let’s start by introducing a major muscle in the pelvic and lower back region, the strongest hip flexor of the human body: the Psoas!
This muscle is bilateral and connects the lower 6 vertebrae of the spine to the femurs.
When it contracts it brings the leg up towards the trunk, or vice versa. When we do abdominal exercises bringing the upper body up towards the legs, the Psoas muscle is one of the main muscles we call upon, over time generating a strain on the lower back. When the psoas muscle is excessively tight it is responsible for most cases of lower back pain generally experienced when attempting to stand up. There is a very simple explanation for this phenomenon.
When sitting down, the psoas muscle is in its shortened, relaxed position. The moment we try to stand up, moving the spine away from the femur we stretch the Psoas muscle.
If we suffer from a tight Psoas, the act of standing triggers an automatic defensive contraction from the muscle to avoid being stretched. The result is generally the impossibility of standing straight, forcing us to walk bent over (minimizing the muscle stretch and pain). The pain is usually described like "a bar" across the lower back.
If you find yourself blocked in this position or you regularly feel the strain in your lower back when attempting to stand up we advise starting by applying heat in the lower back region while giving your body some rest.
The best possible posture to sooth lower back pain is the following:
Psoas Tension Release Posture:
Laying flat on the floor, legs bent at 90º resting on a support.
Ankles crossed so as to generate a slight rotation of the hip.
Knees falling outwards.
In this position you can also apply a heat pack on the lower abdomen area (right below the belt in the above images) to calm the Psoas muscle tension.
Maintain this position at least 10 minutes.
Repeat it one or twice a day for the first couple of days...
On the long term it is important to both stretch and mobilise the Psoas and lower back. For this we recommend a 3-posture morning routine as well as a Psoas-specific stretch to do when feeling some tightness in the hip or lower back.
The foetus: Sitting on your heels, rolled up in a ball, slightly pulling the head inwards.
The prayer: Stretching forwards with the hands, back straight and bum pulling backwards. Pull the hands and head as far as you can from the bum to accentuate the stretch.
The cobra: From the second position bring your body forward and let your hips move down towards the ground, keep your head and arms straight and breathe.
During all three postures it is fundamental to breathe deeply and to exhale while shifting from one posture to the next. Maintain each posture a minimum of 30 seconds. Repeat the sequence 3 times.
In order to keep the Psoas muscle flexible and resistant to our regular activity it is important to stretch it once in a while. The position to stretch it is the following:
Place a pillow or rolled-up towel under your bum.
Pull one leg up as close to the trunk as you can holding it with your hands.
Leave the other leg stretched out on the floor.
You should feel a stretch in the groin and/or upper part of the thigh of the stretched leg.
Maintain for a minimum of 30 seconds while breathing deeply then change sides.
(This position can also be done on the edge of your bed with the lower leg hanging off the edge of the bed - the stretch may be more noticeable that way).
In addition to these postures and stretches, we discourage any kind of abdominal exercises in which you lift your body up towards your legs or any exercises that involve lifting your legs up off the ground while lying on your back. Any such exercise forces upon the Psoas muscle and is very prejudicial to your lumbar spine!
These recommendations are intended to help you alleviate lower back pain originating from Psoas muscle strain. There are many different back injuries that are more serious and that are to be treated differently so if you have a doubt or are in too much pain we advise you see a doctor or physical therapist to give you a proper diagnosis.
We hope you have found this article useful and that you are able to relieve your lower back once you start applying these postures and stretches.
The Bodhi Team
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