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The Psoas Muscle and The Integrity of the Torso

“My Back Hurts”……”I Have a Bad Back”………..Pretty-Psoas

I hear this all the time. Could it be that the 60% of unresolved chronic back pain is due to one or two muscles? I believe so.

The primary culprit, as I see it, is the psoas muscle, pronounced “so-as” (the p is silent). This is probably the most powerful muscle in the whole body, and that’s because of its size and its location.

You’ve never seen it or touched it. It lies deep in the body, on the front of the spine, behind the intestines and other organs, attaching all along the lumbar vertebrae, left and right, of course. It dives through the pelvis and ends at the top of the inner thigh (on the uppermost part of the femur, the leg bone).
If it’s spasming, you can’t climb a flight of stairs, bend over or get out of a chair. It’s also involved in twisting the trunk, although mostly it stabilizes it.

What happens to this muscle? Why is it such a problem?

Often, there was an injury in high school, perhaps from playing a sport, or waiting tables, which set the problem in motion. There may be scar tissue from the healing process that itself causes pain with movement.

A sport like tennis or hockey requires the person to bend their leg slightly at the hip, a sort of crouch,
while playing. Any of these will set a person up for psoas problems.

Most often it’s caused by attempting to lift something that the body isn’t strong enough for……….a suitcase, a large bag of mulch for the garden, a heavy child.

The main factor overall seems to be lifestyle. The person who went from student to professional usually spends a lot of time at a desk, hours and hours of sitting. This bends the leg at the hip, effectively shortening the muscle. A weakened, shortened muscle is ready to spasm.

Not exercising regularly, especially after having been very active at one time, is also a contributing factor.

Massage Therapy ……or What?

So, with this kind of nagging, sometimes show-stopping pain, why can’t I just get a massage? The answer is that the muscle is located away from the surface of the body, virtually inaccessible to the massage practitioner. I can massage the muscle, but with great difficulty, because it lies below the intestines. Most people do not want such a deep, invasive abdominal treatment.

There is a better way. It involves using the leg as a handle on the muscle, and having a “conversation” with it.
The person in pain, the client, will contract or relax the muscle according to the therapist’s prompting, and add a diaphragmatic breath to aid in the communication, brain to muscle.

It’s a fairly complex, but powerful process that will relieve most acute spasms and eliminate the pain.

This is very good news. A chronic spasm in this muscle can set a person up for a herniated or even a ruptured disc. In some cases, the psoas spasm causes other nearby muscles to compensate and overwork themselves, creating other secondary pain patterns.

Getting to the true cause of the pain and removing it is a true solution. After the treatment, or a series of treatments, depending on how severe the debilitation in the muscle, I will teach the client how to strengthen and stretch the muscle, ending the cycle permanently.

In some cases, especially where the person has already had surgery to relieve pressure on a disc, the rehab of the muscle can take longer and we will then proceed more slowly.

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