Low Back Pain Could Be a Tight Psoas
If you find yourself sitting at a desk for hours at a time in this age of personal computers, you may, like so many others, experience some back pain. Most of us would probably blame bad posture (slouching) for the discomfort and in many cases you’d be correct.
But there is an often forgotten cause of back pain that can be treated successfully with some simple stretching exercises. It’s caused by a tight or shortened Psoas muscle (pronounced: So-as). The Psoas is located deep in the abdomen and attaches the femur (thigh) to the pelvis and lumbar spine (low back). Its job is hip flexion; pulling our thigh up towards our chest. We use is when we walk, dance or kick a ball.
Prolonged sitting and lack of exercise can, over time, shorten the Psoas. When we stand up after sitting for a while, the shortened Psoas pulls the lumbar spine forward into increased lordosis (sway back). See diagram above. We often experience this as a stiff or achy low back.
If you have to sit for prolonged periods at a work station and experience stiffness when you stand up, here are a couple stretching exercises that could really help. These should be done twice a day initially until the discomfort starts to subside and then continued daily to combat the effects of prolonged sitting. Rolfing Structural Integration can help people with a tight psoas muscle to feel more comfortable.
1. Half-Kneeling Psoas Stretch
Half kneel on a pillow or folded blanket, one foot out in front. Raise your arm up to the ceiling, throwing your head back and arching your back while shifting your weight forward towards your front foot. You’ll feel the stretch in your stomach and thigh on the side on which you’re kneeling. Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute. This may be hard at first so work up to it. Alternate sides and repeat this sequence so you’re stretched both sides twice. This exercise is also good for your upper back and neck.
2. Thomas Stretch
Sit on the edge of a firm bed or table (if it’s strong enough) with only your buttocks on the bed (not your thighs). Pull one knee up towards your chest and allow the other leg to hang over the bed in an extended, relaxed position. Now slowly rock back to a lying position while holding your knee to your chest. You’ll feel the stretch on the front of the extended leg. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Alternate sides and repeat this sequence so you’re stretched both sides twice. This can sometimes be too aggressive for individuals who are very tight so start with exercise #1 until you can so the Thomas Stretch without pain.
If you’re not a very active person who sits for prolonged periods, there’s a good chance your Psoas is tight, so incorporate these exercises into you day and look forward to feeling better with less back pain and stiffness.
To learn how Rolfing can help with lower back pain, click here to visit Denver City Rolfing website.