Stretching. So many muscles, so little time! We all know to stretch our quads, calves, and our hammies before embarking on any exercise routine. We elongate our calves, loosen our necks and shoulders. Thatís all well and good, but have you ever thought to stretch your psoas? Could you point to it right now?
Most people have no idea where or what the psoas (pronounced ďso-azĒ) is, nor would I if I were not a trained dancer. That being said, it is one of our most crucial core muscles, deep within the abdomen, and it is oftentimes one of our most neglected.
In general terms, the psoas stretches from your thigh to your spine, working with the iliacus to lift your thighs and tilt your pelvis (this hip flexor team is termed the iliopsoas). It is a very, very deep, rope-like muscle, lying beneath all of your organs, just in front of the spine. Due to our massively sedentary lifestyles, most people have a very tight or weak psoas. Long bouts of sitting (in the car, at work, relaxing) shorten the muscle, which causes the pelvis to tilt forward and the lower spine to poke out. With such a deep muscular imbalance, your entire anatomy can get thrown out of alignment, eventually leading to back, hip, and knee pain. Any of these sound familiar?
If you are like the majority of Americans, you have experienced such ailments at one point or another. To determine if your psoas is the culprit, read on for some basic strength and flexibility tests. In some cases, a weak/tight psoas is the underlying issue in chronic lower body pain. As it is the center of nearly all major movements, a compromised psoas can cause other body parts to malfunction. It plays an active role in running, biking, walking up stairs, and even keeping good posture in a chair. If it is weak or too tight, these repetitive activities could be causing inflammation to build up, eventually leading to lower body pain. If you have any sort of lower body pain, do some investigation on your own and always seek further advice from a professional. Your psoas may need some good loviní.
Read on for instructions on how to locate your psoas…
How to Find It
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
2. Place your fingertips about one inch below your belly button and about two inches to either side.
3. Gently burrow you fingertips into your abdomen, wiggling to work your way around.
4. Lift your corresponding thigh upwards a couple of inches. You should feel a long, rope -like muscle tense up deep inside. Thatís your psoas.
5. You can strum it or lightly palpate it to give it a little relief. Warning, this can be an uncomfortable experience if the muscle is tight or you don’t get massages often. †Seek out the skills of a good masseuse to help you out in locating your psoas.
More info: 3 Exercises to Treat Back Pain
Now that you know where it is, read on to find out how to tell if your psoas is tight or weak…
To see if your psoas is tight…
1. Lie on an elevated, firm surface.
2. Hang one leg over the edge and gently hug the other leg in towards your chest, being careful to keep your pelvis from tilting. If you hug it too tightly, your lower back will flatten against the floor, tilting the pelvis out of a neutral position.
3. If your hanging leg is hovering in† the air and not in contact with the edge of the table, your hip flexors (iliopsoas) are too short and tight.
A lot of tension? Check out: 5 Ways to Beat Stress
To see if your psoas is weak…
1. Standing up straight, pull one knee in towards your chest as high as you can (above 90 degrees).
2. Keeping it there for 30 seconds, notice what is happening. Is your back rounding to compensate for your hip flexors? Were you unable to hold it above a right angle for 30 seconds?
3. If so, you should suspect weakness in your psoas. If you felt your lower abdomen working and successfully held your leg up, you have probably have adequate psoas strength.
Work those muscles! Check out:†Biking , The Clean Way To Commute
Of course, if you suspect any lower body issues, always seek out the advice of a professional immediately.
A healthy psoas assists in nearly everything, from balancing to walking, running to sitting. If you take care of your psoas, it will take good care of you. How does your psoas feel today?