So as I was doing some studying online, I stumbled across this article about the Psoas muscle (pronounced “so-as”). If you’re interested, you may check out the article here: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-mighty-psoas-what-it-does-why-it-matters
With so many of us having jobs where sitting for hours on end is quite common, it makes sense that certain muscles in our bodies would become aggravated with us. One muscle in particular is the above mentioned Psoas.
The Psoas muscle attaches to the Lumbar Spine…20 times actually, and only once to each thigh. With that mini anatomy lesson, we’ll go into the importance of the Psoas and why it matters.
One of the functions of the Psoas is hip flexion. It also acts as a stabilizer in the vertebrae; keeping it from rotating into the frontal plane. As stated in the article above, “The many attachments make it extremely important that the psoas can lengthen enough to allow the spine, pelvis, and hips to articulate and move naturally for a pain-free and injury-free body”. So what does that mean, and why should you care? Since the psoas plays a pretty important role in back stability, it can become problematic in a constant shortened state and tighten the articulation. The muscles aren’t able to move the way they were designed to. If you have or have ever had a desk job you may have had your share of back pain. One thing you may not have considered as a potential cause is the psoas muscle. Let’s be honest here; you probably had no clue what a psoas muscle was until now. When the psoas is extended to it’s full length, we are able to “…stand in alignment and allow for hip extension”. If we can’t fully extend or allow the psoas to lengthen from it’s shortened state, we can’t have proper posture, which then puts more pressure on the lower back and hips.
So now that you understand the basics of the psoas, how do we fix it? One way to start is to limit “sitting” positions. Think about how often you are sitting throughout the day. We sit at desks, in the car, on the couch, in a chair, or even when we exercise doing leg extensions or lat pull downs. Refraining from constant sitting will help to keep the muscle elongated. Stretching the psoas muscle on a regular basis will also help. Exercises like swimming, skiing, or skating also help to get fitness in your life but allow the psoas to have a slight break. Walking is also a good alternative.
As I spoke about the CORE of running in my previous blog post, (found here) Stability of the spine helps to improve running. It helps to transfer the forces generated between the upper and lower body. The psoas plays a role in that stabilization, which might be something worth looking into as a runner. Posted below are a couple of pictures on how to effectively stretch the psoas.
Make sure you place something soft underneath your knee and squeeze the buttcheek of the leg on the ground as you move forward. Hold for 2 seconds and return to start. Repeat 8-10 times.
You want to make sure your pelvis is aligned and you are NOT arching your back as in the picture below.