So, I have not written in a while as I have been high from last weekend’s three-day workshop focused on abdominal massage, the uterus, the pelvis and pretty much everything that has to do with “down there”. It was truly enriching and invaluable experience for me. The Self Care class that I attended is part of Arvigo therapy. It is great to see and learn just how many issues, for both men and women, stem from a displaced uterus, the alignment of the pelvis or weak pelvic floors can read to issues such as prolapse, infertility or even fibroids. It will be great to continue to apply much of this work on myself and eventually take the professional course in the future. A great blog to read that discusses the work Barbara Loomis, a fellow Restorative Exercise™ Specialist and Mayan Abdominal Therapist, is doing applying the Mayan Abdominal work to her practice. For you ladies, out there, this work is almost a must to have a better understanding of your body!
Now on to the blog for today! As discussed in the last blog, we looked at how the psoas plays a part in knee pain and now the focus turns towards the lower back. While doing research for this blog, I found a really great name for the psoas, it was called “the great pretender”. Due to where the psoas is located, how hard it is to access it manually and some of its functions, it does a great job masking symptoms that many of us incur. One of these such symptoms is lower back pain. Lower back pain is definitely one of the leading injuries facing many of us and for reasons such as our current lifestyle of sitting for long periods of time and not moving as much as we used to.
Above is a picture of me doing a yoga pose called upward bow. This was taken about two years ago and doing backbends was one of my favorite poses to do. I felt that I had so much flexibility in my back and I was able to get into them super easy. Yet, during this time, I was definitely experiencing a low of lower back achiness. Looking at this picture, what is one thing you see? Especially since this is a psoas focused blog, you can see, hopefully, that there is not much opening or extension in the front of my hips, but I have a lot of compression in my lower back. The amount of hyperextension present in my lower back, I felt was a good thing and helped me to easily move into backbends. It was not until I met Katy Bowman and realized that the source of my back pain was not so much just the hyperextension in my lower back but also the amount of tension that was in my psoas that was causing my bottom ribs to flare out and move forward causing the muscles along my lower back to compress and tighten.
The psoas is known as a major hip flexor and when this muscle spasms, the muscles around the area, moving from the deepest to the superficial muscle, will begin to compensate, become overused, hypertonic and very painful. In this case, this is what happened to me.
In the picture above, you can see just where the psoas attaches, starting from the 12th rib, all along the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae down to the lesser trochanter of the femur bone. It definitely ahs a long way to travel and because of the psoas’ attachment sites, they can pull and torque not just on the lumbar vertebrae, but the lower ribs and have ann effect on your gluts and hips. The picture also depicts these muscles as being deep to the body, which means it is hard to access by palpation alone. When these deep muscles are spasmy or strained in any way, the next layer will then take over the job of the deep muscles. Those muscles, such as the quadratus lumburum or multifidi are not meant to do the job of the psoas, but will and then they too will become overused, then spreading the job over to the erectors, one of the superficial back muscles and you know what happens next…back pain!
In addition to back pain that can be experienced, all due to “the great pretender”, when the psoas is tight, the gluts no longer fire. Why is this?
As the pelvis tilts posteriorly, or backwards, the psoas, which may be tight as well as weak, causes the pelvis to thrust forward thereby weakening the muscles along the gluts and hamstrings. If you didn’t already know, the glutes are one of the muscles which should help to keep you erect as well as help you to walk. When those muscles aren’t engaging, then the psoas and quads d the brunt of the work and as you can see the knees take a beating as can be seen above, bent knees.
So, moral of the story…if you are suffering from lower back pain, it may not hurt to take a look at how your psoas may be playing a big part. Next posting will consist of exercises to help lengthen and relax your psoas. Stay tuned!