Get off your psoas!

This post is a follow up to the last in which I described how prolonged sitting can cause lower back tension and discomfort, and that the psoas (so-Az) is the main culprit. I’ll explain a little more about the function and anatomy of the psoas and how to stretch the muscle, hopefully helping to alleviate pain and improve posture.


The psoas is the major hip flexor, which is responsible for moving the upper leg toward the body when the body is fixed, as in lifting the leg to walk or run, or the body toward the leg when the leg is fixed, as in a forward bend. It attaches at the 12th thoracic vertebrae (mid to lower back) and each lumbar vertebrae, then moves through the pelvis and attaches to the inner femur, or thighbone.


When seated with classic poor posture, i.e. with the lower back rounded and the upper body slouching forward, the psoas muscle shortens, allowing the lumbar vertebrae to compress. After maintaining this posture for hours at a time, when we stand or move, the psoas can remain taught, thus pulling our upper bodies forward and rounding our spines. Stretching the psoas regularly will result in decreased tension of the muscle, as well as an increased awareness of its effect on posture, and therefore less compression of the lower spine. You may find that you gain an inch or two of height also, not a bad bonus for us vertically impaired!


Below are two videos demonstrating great ways to lengthen the psoas and decompress the lower back:






Please ask your therapist if you have any difficulty with these stretches or feel pain or discomfort in the front of the thighs or lower back. And remember that good sitting posture, discussed in the last post, can be the difference between being hunched over at age 40 or standing high and proud at age 90!