One of the strongest and most important muscles in our entire body is the Psoas (pronounced So-As). The Psoas attaches to your spine on the anterior side (belly button side) and runs down through the pelvis and attaches to the top of the femur bone. It is the only muscle that truly connects your spine to your legs, giving you your posture, balance, stability, and movements of both upper and lower body. This muscle is extremely deep in your core area and lies beneath so many other layers of muscles that it is not easily palpable and can affect your organs and emotions, as well as the muscles in the body.
So what does the Psoas do? The Psoas muscles consist of both slow and fast twitching muscles and are major flexors. The Psoas allows you to:
The Psoas is also connected to your breath as the diaphragm and Psoas muscles are connected by fascia, and the tendons attaching the diaphragm to the spine is right next to the beginning attachments of the Psoas muscle. This means that any time your breath quickens from excitement, fear, or stress, your Psoas muscles will contract.
When your Psoas muscles are constantly in a state of contraction, the results cause the muscles to become shortened and tight, causing pain and limit your range of motion and make movements more difficult. Any prolonged sitting, long distance running or walking, cycling, doing sit-ups, frequently weight training, and even sleeping in the fetal position at night can cause your Psoas muscles to become tight.
Often times muscular imbalances are caused from either the Psoas muscles being too tight or too weak. If you have been sitting for too long and you stand up, you may find yourself bent over a little when you first get up and may even experience some lower back and hip pain. Do you find yourself grabbing your low back and limping a few steps before you can fully straighten up? That is a tight Psoas muscle causing this postural imbalance. Also, if you go on a big hike or snowshoe trek and find that it is difficult or even painful to continue to lift your legs up miles into the trail or when you are heading back to your car, making you limp in discomfort, that is an overused Psoas that needs to relax. People who have more of a sway back often time have a weak Psoas. Their Psoas muscle is not strong enough to pull the body back into an upright posture, allowing their hips to rotate forward in over extension and giving the sway back and even causing a little bit of a duck waddling walk.
Here are some signs that might mean you could have a Psoas muscle imbalance:
Here are some tips on how to help get your body back in balance:
When your Psoas muscles are out of balance, it can cause a lot of back and hip pain. It can make getting up and down and even bending over difficult. It can cause you to limp, and it can make you have postural imbalances, throwing your center of gravity off. The Psoas muscles is one of the most important muscles in the body. It connects your upper body and spine to the lower body and legs. It is a pivotal muscle that flexes and rotates your spine, hips, and legs. Be aware of your Psoas muscles and take care of them. Whether the muscles need to be relaxed or strengthened, bringing balance back to the body is important. You will be able to move more fluidly and pain free with a happy Psoas.
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.