The psoas muscle, otherwise known as the hip flexor, is probably one of the most underestimated muscles in the body. It is very powerful and is usually the cause of long standing issues when relating to recurrent back pain.
The psoas originates at the lumbar spine and crosses the pelvis at the sacroiliac joint, terminating on the front of the femur (or thigh bone). It functions to flex the hip (raise the knee from a standing position) or bend the trunk forward at the hip. The problem with this muscle is that when it becomes tight, the erector muscles compensate and the body begins a tug-of-war of sorts (the front of the body is fighting the back of the body).
The hip flexors are notoriously tight in today’s society. Let’s face it. We are a society of sitting. We sit at our jobs all day long, after that we get in ours cars and drive home. When we get home, we sit for dinner and then possibly even for the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The longer the psoas muscles remain tight, the more your body will do to compensate for this. For example, your low back muscles will become tight and quite possibly your core muscles will become weak in response because you are always using your hip flexors instead of your core. The point is, we unintentionally do everything to keep the psoas muscles shortened and tight. Coincidentally, we do virtually nothing to stretch them out. Even if you are a yoga practitioner, you understand that in yoga you do a lot to stretch the back of the body and not much to stretch the front. if you are a runner or a cyclist, you are especially at risk for some tight hip flexors because of the repetitive nature of those sports.
Psoas strains are the great imitator of low back pain. How so? When you have a tug-of-war occurring in your body, your hip flexors may or may not be hurting, but your low back muscles (the ones that are compensating) probably are. And thus your psoas muscles are mimicking your back pain. If you feel pain in your low back when going from a sitting position to a standing one, your hip flexors may in fact be the problem.
How do we rectify this situation? Stretching is a start, especially if you take part in some of the sports that I mentioned above. Above that, if you need help figuring out the cause of your pain and you think that your psoas muscles are the culprit.
I’m here to help.