When Your Psoas Muscles Cause Groin Pain and Why Stretching Doesn't Work

Symptoms, Correct Diagnosis, What Does Work

| also, When Your Back Hurts |

© 2004 Lawrence Gold 

certified practitioner 

Hanna Somatic Education® 

The Dr. Ida P. Rolf Method of Structural Integration

When Your Psoas Muscles Cause Groin Pain and Why Stretching Doesn't Work

Symptoms, Correct Diagnosis, What Does Work

| also, When Your Back Hurts |

© 2004 Lawrence Gold 

certified practitioner 

Hanna Somatic Education® 

The Dr. Ida P. Rolf Method of Structural Integration

READ THIS | When is the Diagnosis, "Tight Psoas Muscles", Wrong or Misleading?

Sometimes, tight psoas muscles are only part of the problem -- or not the underlying cause (despite the diagnoses of well-meaning practitioners and therapists). Because the psoas muscles have gotten a lot of recognition, these days -- often cited as the cause of back pain -- misdiagnoses are common. Practitioners diagnose what they know about. People may directly get treatment for tight psoas muscles and fail to get complete relief -- or lasting relief, or any relief.

Why?  

A twisted sacrum* causes symptoms of a tight psoas. The psoas muscles tighten, usually on the side opposite the jammed side S-I joint.

Here are some symptoms of sacro-iliac joint dysfunction. If you have some of them, click the link, below, and save some time.

  • pain across your low back at the waist
  • pain along the top border (iliac crest) of your pelvis 
  • deep hip joint pain 
  • a feeling like a tight wire at your low back
  • popping at your low back
  • a combination of low back and groin pain

If your sacrum is twisted, tight psoas muscles are an effect of a twisted sacrum, not the underlying cause of the pain, and your psoas muscles can't be released without first correcting sacrum position. Movement patterns and muscle tensions maintain sacrum position, so mechanical adjustments are of limited effectiveness. When the sacrum straightens, as in the regimen available on the page available, immediately below, the psoas muscles relax.

To determine whether you have that a twisted sacrum, read and follow the instructions in this entry on S-I joint dysfunction

If the entry seems to be describing you, send for the regimen for that condition by entering your name and email address at the bottom of that entry. You will receive a "quick response" email message with access to the self-relief regimen.

* The sacrum is the central bone of the pelvis, running from the waistline in back to the tailbone.

READ THIS | When is the Diagnosis, "Tight Psoas Muscles", Wrong or Misleading?

Sometimes, tight psoas muscles are only part of the problem -- or not the underlying cause (despite the diagnoses of well-meaning practitioners and therapists). Because the psoas muscles have gotten a lot of recognition, these days -- often cited as the cause of back pain -- misdiagnoses are common. Practitioners diagnose what they know about. People may directly get treatment for tight psoas muscles and fail to get complete relief -- or lasting relief, or any relief.

Why?  

A twisted sacrum* causes symptoms of a tight psoas. The psoas muscles tighten, usually on the side opposite the jammed side S-I joint.

Here are some symptoms of sacro-iliac joint dysfunction. If you have some of them, click the link, below, and save some time.

  • pain across your low back at the waist
  • pain along the top border (iliac crest) of your pelvis 
  • deep hip joint pain 
  • a feeling like a tight wire at your low back
  • popping at your low back
  • a combination of low back and groin pain

If your sacrum is twisted, tight psoas muscles are an effect of a twisted sacrum, not the underlying cause of the pain, and your psoas muscles can't be released without first correcting sacrum position. Movement patterns and muscle tensions maintain sacrum position, so mechanical adjustments are of limited effectiveness. When the sacrum straightens, as in the regimen available on the page available, immediately below, the psoas muscles relax.

To determine whether you have that a twisted sacrum, read and follow the instructions in this entry on S-I joint dysfunction

If the entry seems to be describing you, send for the regimen for that condition by entering your name and email address at the bottom of that entry. You will receive a "quick response" email message with access to the self-relief regimen.

* The sacrum is the central bone of the pelvis, running from the waistline in back to the tailbone.

SYMPTOMS AND LOCATIONS OF PSOAS MUSCLE PAIN 

("ILIOPSOAS SYNDROME") -- so you know if your condition is what you think it is.

SYMPTOMS AND LOCATIONS OF PSOAS MUSCLE PAIN 

("ILIOPSOAS SYNDROME") -- so you know if your condition is what you think it is.

The iliopsoas muscles consist of the iliacus muscles, which span from each groin to the sides of the pelvic cavity; the psoas muscles span from the inner groin to the spine behind the breathing diaphragm; because they share the same tendon at the groin, they are called, "the iliopsoas muscles".The iliopsoas muscles are large and long; pain may show up anywhere along their length. See the image. 

The iliopsoas muscles consist of the iliacus muscles, which span from each groin to the sides of the pelvic cavity; the psoas muscles span from the inner groin to the spine behind the breathing diaphragm; because they share the same tendon at the groin, they are called, "the iliopsoas muscles".The iliopsoas muscles are large and long; pain may show up anywhere along their length. See the image. 

Tight psoas muscles put undue pressure on the bursa at the groin, causing iliopsoas bursitis and iliopsoas tendinitis. (A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a soft pully for a tendon that passes across it.)Tight psoas muscles are in a constant state of fatigue and feel sore, giving rise to pelvic and abdominal pain.Iliopsoas syndrome is a collection of symptoms caused by tight iliopsoas muscles and experienced anywhere along their length.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

ABDOMINAL STRENGTHENING EXERCISES AND PSOAS STRETCHES

Bulging belly: abdominal strengthening exercises

You can't correct a bulging belly or tight muscles by strengthening or stretching. Here's why: Neither abdominal strengthening nor psoas stretching exercises efficiently changes muscle/movement memory; muscle/movement memory determines muscle tone and the shape to which you return after you have stretched -- whether in hours or in days. You keep returning to that tension, posture and shape. To get a lasting change, you need to change muscle-movement memory, as presented here.

When is Stretching Your Psoas Muscles, Wrong?

The answer is, "Always." Stretching produces short-term changes, at best.

The problem isn't that psoas muscles need stretching, but that they keep tightening and shortening, as controlled by muscle/movement memory. Muscle tone is too high. Muscle/movement memory makes them shorten and keep needing stretching.

Even if you could get the psoas muscles to relax by stretching, stretching doesn't retrain muscles into healthy coordination and healthy tone. For healthy tone, you need all the muscles of your movement system to be well-coordinated because they all work together in balance and movement.So, the answer to, "When is stretching your psoas muscles, wrong?" is, "Always."

Several reasons exist for the incomplete or temporary results of psoas stretches. Here are the reasons:

1. "Muscle/movement-memory" runs the show. Stretching creates only the memory of being stretched, and does not develop the muscle/movement memory that controls normal movement, muscle tone and coordination.

2.  In stretches, tight muscles remain passive, while other muscles force the stretch. That makes stretching an indirect approach. The direct approach is to retrain muscle/movement memory by movement training that actively uses your psoas muscles, normalizes their tone and improves your coordination. To normalize psoas muscle functioning, you need to cultivate direct control of the psoas muscles.

Tight psoas muscles put undue pressure on the bursa at the groin, causing iliopsoas bursitis and iliopsoas tendinitis. (A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a soft pully for a tendon that passes across it.)Tight psoas muscles are in a constant state of fatigue and feel sore, giving rise to pelvic and abdominal pain.Iliopsoas syndrome is a collection of symptoms caused by tight iliopsoas muscles and experienced anywhere along their length.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

ABDOMINAL STRENGTHENING EXERCISES AND PSOAS STRETCHES

Bulging belly: abdominal strengthening exercises

You can't correct a bulging belly or tight muscles by strengthening or stretching. Here's why: Neither abdominal strengthening nor psoas stretching exercises efficiently changes muscle/movement memory; muscle/movement memory determines muscle tone and the shape to which you return after you have stretched -- whether in hours or in days. You keep returning to that tension, posture and shape. To get a lasting change, you need to change muscle-movement memory, as presented here.

When is Stretching Your Psoas Muscles, Wrong?

The answer is, "Always." Stretching produces short-term changes, at best.

The problem isn't that psoas muscles need stretching, but that they keep tightening and shortening, as controlled by muscle/movement memory. Muscle tone is too high. Muscle/movement memory makes them shorten and keep needing stretching.

Even if you could get the psoas muscles to relax by stretching, stretching doesn't retrain muscles into healthy coordination and healthy tone. For healthy tone, you need all the muscles of your movement system to be well-coordinated because they all work together in balance and movement.So, the answer to, "When is stretching your psoas muscles, wrong?" is, "Always."

Several reasons exist for the incomplete or temporary results of psoas stretches. Here are the reasons:

1. "Muscle/movement-memory" runs the show. Stretching creates only the memory of being stretched, and does not develop the muscle/movement memory that controls normal movement, muscle tone and coordination.

2.  In stretches, tight muscles remain passive, while other muscles force the stretch. That makes stretching an indirect approach. The direct approach is to retrain muscle/movement memory by movement training that actively uses your psoas muscles, normalizes their tone and improves your coordination. To normalize psoas muscle functioning, you need to cultivate direct control of the psoas muscles.

3.  The most common psoas muscle stretch (the psoas "lunge") is done standing or kneeling. When you are upright, balance reflexes based on your old muscle/movement memory come into play, which interferes with efforts to form new muscle/movement memory.

3.  The most common psoas muscle stretch (the psoas "lunge") is done standing or kneeling. When you are upright, balance reflexes based on your old muscle/movement memory come into play, which interferes with efforts to form new muscle/movement memory.

THE ILIOPSOAS MUSCLES 

and QUADRATUS LUMBORUM ("QL")

THE ILIOPSOAS MUSCLES 

and QUADRATUS LUMBORUM ("QL")

In stretching, the tension of other, surface muscles (such as the gluteus minimus hip joint flexors) interfere. Stretches never reach the psoas muscles.To free your psoas muscles, you must gain control of the natural movements they cause, the way you have control over chewing. As you gain control, pain fades out and free movement returns.

Direct control develops as you practice movements in positions that directly involve your psoas muscles. With practice, you learn control by feel."Control" means that you can do what you intend to do and not do what you don't intend to do. Unless you mean to do a movement that involves your psoas muscles, they stay relaxed by themselves.

In stretching, the tension of other, surface muscles (such as the gluteus minimus hip joint flexors) interfere. Stretches never reach the psoas muscles.To free your psoas muscles, you must gain control of the natural movements they cause, the way you have control over chewing. As you gain control, pain fades out and free movement returns.

Direct control develops as you practice movements in positions that directly involve your psoas muscles. With practice, you learn control by feel."Control" means that you can do what you intend to do and not do what you don't intend to do. Unless you mean to do a movement that involves your psoas muscles, they stay relaxed by themselves.

TIGHT HAMSTRINGS?

Tight psoas muscles require hamstring muscles to overtighten to overcome the forward pull of tight psoas muscles. 

It works the other way, too: Tight hamstrings REQUIRE psoas muscles to tighten up to overcome the backward pull of hamstrings. If your hamstrings are tight, please read this entry and see the hamstring somatic exercise tutorial video.

TIGHT HAMSTRINGS?

Tight psoas muscles require hamstring muscles to overtighten to overcome the forward pull of tight psoas muscles. 

It works the other way, too: Tight hamstrings REQUIRE psoas muscles to tighten up to overcome the backward pull of hamstrings. If your hamstrings are tight, please read this entry and see the hamstring somatic exercise tutorial video.

Retraining muscle-movement memory is faster and produces more durable results than stretching. The "lunge" stretch shown, above, typically causes the back to arch. Tightening the abdominal muscles doesn't adequately help to prevent the back from arching, and, in any case, sets up an unhealthy tension pattern in those muscles.The real issue, in any case, is muscle/movement memory -- resting muscle tone and movement -- not the degree of stretch. If you don't change muscle/movement memory, problems return.

Retraining muscle-movement memory is faster and produces more durable results than stretching. The "lunge" stretch shown, above, typically causes the back to arch. Tightening the abdominal muscles doesn't adequately help to prevent the back from arching, and, in any case, sets up an unhealthy tension pattern in those muscles.The real issue, in any case, is muscle/movement memory -- resting muscle tone and movement -- not the degree of stretch. If you don't change muscle/movement memory, problems return.

The Relationship of Psoas, Abdominal Muscles and Back Pain

The psoas muscles and the abdominal muscles are opposing pairs (agonist and antagonist) as well as synergists (mutual helpers). Closely coordinated interaction between the two is healthy; poor coordination between the two creates problems.

The psoas muscles lie behind the abdominal contents, from the level of your diaphragm to your inner thighs at the groin (lesser trochanters); the abdominal muscles lie in front of the abdominal contents, from the lower borders of the ribs (with the rectus muscles as high as the nipples) to the pubic bone.

Here's how they interact.

The Relationship of Psoas, Abdominal Muscles and Back Pain

The psoas muscles and the abdominal muscles are opposing pairs (agonist and antagonist) as well as synergists (mutual helpers). Closely coordinated interaction between the two is healthy; poor coordination between the two creates problems.

The psoas muscles lie behind the abdominal contents, from the level of your diaphragm to your inner thighs at the groin (lesser trochanters); the abdominal muscles lie in front of the abdominal contents, from the lower borders of the ribs (with the rectus muscles as high as the nipples) to the pubic bone.

Here's how they interact.

AS ANTAGONISTS 

(opposition between muscles):

  • When standing, contracted iliopsoas muscles (whose tendons ride over the pubic crests) push the pubic bone backward; the abdominal muscles pull the pubic bone forward. Co-contraction creates abdominal compression and disturbed function of the internal organs.
  • The psoas minor muscles pull the lumbar spine forward; the abdominal muscles push the lumbar spine back (via pressure on abdominal contents and change of pelvic tilt).

AS ANTAGONISTS 

(opposition between muscles):

  • When standing, contracted iliopsoas muscles (whose tendons ride over the pubic crests) push the pubic bone backward; the abdominal muscles pull the pubic bone forward. Co-contraction creates abdominal compression and disturbed function of the internal organs.
  • The psoas minor muscles pull the lumbar spine forward; the abdominal muscles push the lumbar spine back (via pressure on abdominal contents and change of pelvic tilt).

AS SYNERGISTS 

(cooperation among muscles):

  • In walking, the iliopsoas muscles of one side move the leg forward, and the abdominals bring the same-side hip and pubis forward. (discussed on more detail, below)
  • The iliacus muscles, which feed into the quadratus lumborum muscles, which feed into the intercostal (rib) muscles. All these muscles move the trunk in the twisting/untwisting movements of walking.
  • The psoas major muscles pull the fronts of attached vertebrae (at the level of the diaphragm), down and back; the abdominals push the same area back.
  • One-sided contraction of the psoas muscles twists the torso and causes a sidebend toward the side of contraction (as if ducking to one side and looking over ones raised shoulder) -- it also retracts (pulls in) the leg toward the waist from within; abdominal muscles assist the shortening movement by pulling the hip (iliac crest) into the waist (part of being short-waisted).

AS SYNERGISTS 

(cooperation among muscles):

  • In walking, the iliopsoas muscles of one side move the leg forward, and the abdominals bring the same-side hip and pubis forward. (discussed on more detail, below)
  • The iliacus muscles, which feed into the quadratus lumborum muscles, which feed into the intercostal (rib) muscles. All these muscles move the trunk in the twisting/untwisting movements of walking.
  • The psoas major muscles pull the fronts of attached vertebrae (at the level of the diaphragm), down and back; the abdominals push the same area back.
  • One-sided contraction of the psoas muscles twists the torso and causes a sidebend toward the side of contraction (as if ducking to one side and looking over ones raised shoulder) -- it also retracts (pulls in) the leg toward the waist from within; abdominal muscles assist the shortening movement by pulling the hip (iliac crest) into the waist (part of being short-waisted).

Pain at the Waist or Back

VERY RELEVANT - VERY IMPORTANT

If you have pain across the lower back at the waistline level, a feeling like a tight wire in your back, pain along your pelvic rim, burning bladder or groin (and no infection), or numbness down the front or side of your thigh ("I-T band"), those are symptoms of a twisted sacrum. You can't free a tight psoas as long as your sacrum is twisted.

Please read this entry for fit to your condition.

Now, if this all sounds complicated, no need to worry. The self-renovation program guides you step-by-step and keeps track of everything, for you. Just follow the program lesson-to-lesson. I guide you at an easy pace.

COACHING AVAILABLE: If you're concerned about doing the exercises correctly, know that most people do just fine -- and if you need coaching, you can get it, here.

Now, if this all sounds complicated, no need to worry. The self-renovation program guides you step-by-step and keeps track of everything, for you. Just follow the program lesson-to-lesson. I guide you at an easy pace.

COACHING AVAILABLE: If you're concerned about doing the exercises correctly, know that most people do just fine -- and if you need coaching, you can get it, here.

Seemingly Unrelated Symptoms Of Psoas Muscle Trouble

Exercises to flatten the belly (e.g., crunches) cause the abdominal muscles to overpower psoas and spinal extensor muscles that are already too tight. Co-contraction results, in which abdominal organs are sandwiched between tight muscles, front and back, which impairs their functioning (e.g., digestive/eliminative problems)

High abdominal muscle tone from abdominal crunches drags the front of the ribs down and causes a head-forward position. Results: (1) impaired breathing, (2) compressed abdominal contents with impaired circulation, (3) sluggish lumbar plexus function (4) chronic constipation (from sluggish lumbar plexus function), (5) poor postural alignment, (6) poor support; gravity then drags posture down, (7) muscular involvement (at the back of the body) to counteract what is, in effect, a movement toward collapse. This muscular effort (a) taxes the body's vital resources, (b) introduces strain in the involved musculature (e.g., the extensors of the back), and (c) sets the stage for back pain and back injury.

From the foregoing description, it's obvious that "inconvenient" consequences result from abdominal exercises -- as popular as those exercises are for the appearance of fitness. It's better to simply to balance the interaction of the psoas and abdominal muscles.

The musculature and connective tissue of the legs, which connect the legs with the pelvis and torso, largely determine the pelvic orientation (postural position), and thus the spinal curves. If the feet are not in the same vertical plane as the hip joints, but are somewhat behind the hip joints(swayback), or more ahead of them (the stooped posture of "old age"), the strain tilts the pelvis -- and excessive lordosis or kyphosis follows (depending on whether the person has a swayback or a stoop). This postural effect involves the postural reflexes of standing balance, reflexes that involve the abdominal musculature. If the psoas muscles are tighter on one side than the other (pain on one side), abdominal muscles are tighter on one side than the other, and hip height asymmetry results, contributing to the appearance of unequal leg length.

Where movement, abdominal organ function, and freedom from back pain are concerned, proper support from the legs is as important as the free, reciprocal interplay of the psoas and abdominal muscles.

Signs of Psoas Health

When the psoas and the abdominal muscles counterbalance each other responsively, the psoas muscles contract and relax, shorten and lengthen appropriately in movement. The lumbar curve, rather than increasing, decreases; the back flattens and the abdominal contents move back into the abdominal cavity, where they are supported instead of hanging forward. Stride lengthens and the whole trunk elongates.

Seemingly Unrelated Symptoms Of Psoas Muscle Trouble

Exercises to flatten the belly (e.g., crunches) cause the abdominal muscles to overpower psoas and spinal extensor muscles that are already too tight. Co-contraction results, in which abdominal organs are sandwiched between tight muscles, front and back, which impairs their functioning (e.g., digestive/eliminative problems)

High abdominal muscle tone from abdominal crunches drags the front of the ribs down and causes a head-forward position. Results: (1) impaired breathing, (2) compressed abdominal contents with impaired circulation, (3) sluggish lumbar plexus function (4) chronic constipation (from sluggish lumbar plexus function), (5) poor postural alignment, (6) poor support; gravity then drags posture down, (7) muscular involvement (at the back of the body) to counteract what is, in effect, a movement toward collapse. This muscular effort (a) taxes the body's vital resources, (b) introduces strain in the involved musculature (e.g., the extensors of the back), and (c) sets the stage for back pain and back injury.

From the foregoing description, it's obvious that "inconvenient" consequences result from abdominal exercises -- as popular as those exercises are for the appearance of fitness. It's better to simply to balance the interaction of the psoas and abdominal muscles.

The musculature and connective tissue of the legs, which connect the legs with the pelvis and torso, largely determine the pelvic orientation (postural position), and thus the spinal curves. If the feet are not in the same vertical plane as the hip joints, but are somewhat behind the hip joints(swayback), or more ahead of them (the stooped posture of "old age"), the strain tilts the pelvis -- and excessive lordosis or kyphosis follows (depending on whether the person has a swayback or a stoop). This postural effect involves the postural reflexes of standing balance, reflexes that involve the abdominal musculature. If the psoas muscles are tighter on one side than the other (pain on one side), abdominal muscles are tighter on one side than the other, and hip height asymmetry results, contributing to the appearance of unequal leg length.

Where movement, abdominal organ function, and freedom from back pain are concerned, proper support from the legs is as important as the free, reciprocal interplay of the psoas and abdominal muscles.

Signs of Psoas Health

When the psoas and the abdominal muscles counterbalance each other responsively, the psoas muscles contract and relax, shorten and lengthen appropriately in movement. The lumbar curve, rather than increasing, decreases; the back flattens and the abdominal contents move back into the abdominal cavity, where they are supported instead of hanging forward. Stride lengthens and the whole trunk elongates.

A TECHNICAL DISCUSSION OF HOW THE PSOAS CONTRIBUTES TO BALANCED WALKING:

What this means is that movement forward starts in the trunk (as a slight swaying forward). That slight swaying forward starts as a shifting of weight onto one foot and a subtle lifting of the toes and/or front of that foot, which decreases support, so that you slightly sway forward. When you have swayed far enough forward, you spontaneously bring your other leg forward to catch your forward weight (knee movement forward initiated by the psoas). Your leg comes forward, your foot comes down and supports your weight as it comes forward; then your other leg comes forward. The movement is:  trunk, foot, hip, knee, foot, in a cycle.

A casual interpretation of this description might be that the psoas initiates hip flexion by bringing the thigh forward. It's not quite as simple as that.

By its location, the psoas is also a rotator of the thigh. It passes down and forward from the lumbar spine, over the pubic crest, before its tendon passes posteriorly (back) to its insertion at the lesser trochanter of the thigh. Shortening of the psoas pulls upon that tendon, which pulls the medial aspect of the thigh forward, inducing rotation, knee outward.

In healthy functioning, two actions regulate that tendency to knee-outward turning: (1) the same side of the pelvis rotates forward by action involving the iliacus muscle, the internal oblique (which is functionally continuous with the iliacus by its common insertion at the iliac crest) and the external oblique of the other side and (2) the gluteus minimus, which passes backward from below the iliac crest to the greater trochanter, assists the psoas in bringing the thigh forward, while aligning thigh rotation so the leg (optimally) swings directly in the line of travel (not commonly seen, but then idiosyncratic muscular tensions and inefficient movement are more common than well-organized movement -- so common that they are taken as "normal"). The glutei minimi are internal rotators, as well as flexors, of the thigh at the hip joint. They function synergistically with the psoas.

This synergy causes forward movement of the thigh, aided by the forward movement of the same side of the pelvis. The movement functionally originates from the somatic center, through which the psoas passes on its way to the lumbar spine. Thus, Dr. Rolf's observation of the role of the psoas in initiating walking is explained.

Interestingly, the abdominals aid walking by assisting the pelvic rotational movement described, by means of their attachments along the anterior (front) border of the pelvis. Thus, the interplay of psoas and abdominals is explained.

A final interesting note brings the center (psoas) into relation with the periphery (feet). In healthy, well-integrated walking, the feet assist the psoas and glutei minimi in bringing the thigh forward. The phenomenon is known as "spring in the step."

Here's the description: When the thigh is farthest back, in walking, the ankle is most dorsi-flexed. That means that the calf muscles and hip flexors are at their fullest stretch and primed by stretch receptors, in those muscles, to contract. This is what happens in well-integrated walking: assisted by the stretch reflex, the plantar flexors of the feet put spring in the step, which assists the flexors of the hip joints in bringing the thigh forward.

Here's what makes it particularly interesting: when the plantar flexors fail to respond in a lively fashion, ones feet lack spring and the burden of bringing the thigh forward falls heavily upon the psoas and other hip joint flexors, which become conditioned to maintain a heightened state of tension and readiness to contract, and there we are: tight psoas and back pain. Note that ineffective dorsi-flexors of the feet (lifters of the fronts of the feet) lead to tripping over ones feet, when walking; to avoid tripping over ones own feet, the hip flexors must compensate by lifting the knee higher, leading to a similar problem. The answer to this problem, by the way, is not usually to strengthen the muscles of the shin (dorsiflexors), but to free the muscles of the calf, which are usually too tight.

Thus, it appears that the responsibility for problems with the psoas falls (in part, if not largely) upon the feet. No complete resolution of psoas problems should be expected without proper functioning of the lower legs and feet.

A TECHNICAL DISCUSSION OF HOW THE PSOAS CONTRIBUTES TO BALANCED WALKING:

What this means is that movement forward starts in the trunk (as a slight swaying forward). That slight swaying forward starts as a shifting of weight onto one foot and a subtle lifting of the toes and/or front of that foot, which decreases support, so that you slightly sway forward. When you have swayed far enough forward, you spontaneously bring your other leg forward to catch your forward weight (knee movement forward initiated by the psoas). Your leg comes forward, your foot comes down and supports your weight as it comes forward; then your other leg comes forward. The movement is:  trunk, foot, hip, knee, foot, in a cycle.

A casual interpretation of this description might be that the psoas initiates hip flexion by bringing the thigh forward. It's not quite as simple as that.

By its location, the psoas is also a rotator of the thigh. It passes down and forward from the lumbar spine, over the pubic crest, before its tendon passes posteriorly (back) to its insertion at the lesser trochanter of the thigh. Shortening of the psoas pulls upon that tendon, which pulls the medial aspect of the thigh forward, inducing rotation, knee outward.

In healthy functioning, two actions regulate that tendency to knee-outward turning: (1) the same side of the pelvis rotates forward by action involving the iliacus muscle, the internal oblique (which is functionally continuous with the iliacus by its common insertion at the iliac crest) and the external oblique of the other side and (2) the gluteus minimus, which passes backward from below the iliac crest to the greater trochanter, assists the psoas in bringing the thigh forward, while aligning thigh rotation so the leg (optimally) swings directly in the line of travel (not commonly seen, but then idiosyncratic muscular tensions and inefficient movement are more common than well-organized movement -- so common that they are taken as "normal"). The glutei minimi are internal rotators, as well as flexors, of the thigh at the hip joint. They function synergistically with the psoas.

This synergy causes forward movement of the thigh, aided by the forward movement of the same side of the pelvis. The movement functionally originates from the somatic center, through which the psoas passes on its way to the lumbar spine. Thus, Dr. Rolf's observation of the role of the psoas in initiating walking is explained.

Interestingly, the abdominals aid walking by assisting the pelvic rotational movement described, by means of their attachments along the anterior (front) border of the pelvis. Thus, the interplay of psoas and abdominals is explained.

A final interesting note brings the center (psoas) into relation with the periphery (feet). In healthy, well-integrated walking, the feet assist the psoas and glutei minimi in bringing the thigh forward. The phenomenon is known as "spring in the step."

Here's the description: When the thigh is farthest back, in walking, the ankle is most dorsi-flexed. That means that the calf muscles and hip flexors are at their fullest stretch and primed by stretch receptors, in those muscles, to contract. This is what happens in well-integrated walking: assisted by the stretch reflex, the plantar flexors of the feet put spring in the step, which assists the flexors of the hip joints in bringing the thigh forward.

Here's what makes it particularly interesting: when the plantar flexors fail to respond in a lively fashion, ones feet lack spring and the burden of bringing the thigh forward falls heavily upon the psoas and other hip joint flexors, which become conditioned to maintain a heightened state of tension and readiness to contract, and there we are: tight psoas and back pain. Note that ineffective dorsi-flexors of the feet (lifters of the fronts of the feet) lead to tripping over ones feet, when walking; to avoid tripping over ones own feet, the hip flexors must compensate by lifting the knee higher, leading to a similar problem. The answer to this problem, by the way, is not usually to strengthen the muscles of the shin (dorsiflexors), but to free the muscles of the calf, which are usually too tight.

Thus, it appears that the responsibility for problems with the psoas falls (in part, if not largely) upon the feet. No complete resolution of psoas problems should be expected without proper functioning of the lower legs and feet.

SUMMARY

Because psoas problems are really movement and control problems (distorted "muscle memory/movement memory"), somatic education exercises or clinical somatic education provide faster and more durable relief than strengthening, stretching exercises, massage or manipulation.

SUMMARY

Because psoas problems are really movement and control problems (distorted "muscle memory/movement memory"), somatic education exercises or clinical somatic education provide faster and more durable relief than strengthening, stretching exercises, massage or manipulation.

When one side of the psoas is tight and short without symptoms of a twisted sacrum, the tension comes from muscle/movement memory.

To free your psoas and end the pain, change your muscle/movement memory.

Somatic education exercises efficiently and durably normalize muscle/movement memory.

Tight psoas muscles contribute to sitting fatigue and postural changes that include a back-arched, big-belly posture, a deeper groin fold, shortened stride length, and the inability to stand fully erect.

Various symptoms come from tight psoas muscles, including abdominal pain, constipation, and restricted breathing.

When one side of the psoas is tight and short without symptoms of a twisted sacrum, the tension comes from muscle/movement memory.

To free your psoas and end the pain, change your muscle/movement memory.

Somatic education exercises efficiently and durably normalize muscle/movement memory.

Tight psoas muscles contribute to sitting fatigue and postural changes that include a back-arched, big-belly posture, a deeper groin fold, shortened stride length, and the inability to stand fully erect.

Various symptoms come from tight psoas muscles, including abdominal pain, constipation, and restricted breathing.

  • Sit too much? Click for Tight Psoas? Sit too much?
  • Preview the self-relief program, click Free Your Psoas.
  • Consider coming for one-on-one sessions for much faster improvement Read a description of a clinical somatic education session. Click here.
  • See somatics in action. Click here.

(CLICKING THESE LINKS OPENS NEW BROWSER WINDOWS, WHILE THIS ONE STAYS OPEN.)

  • Sit too much? Click for Tight Psoas? Sit too much?
  • Preview the self-relief program, click Free Your Psoas.
  • Consider coming for one-on-one sessions for much faster improvement Read a description of a clinical somatic education session. Click here.
  • See somatics in action. Click here.

(CLICKING THESE LINKS OPENS NEW BROWSER WINDOWS, WHILE THIS ONE STAYS OPEN.)

What You Can Do For Yourself

Specific somatic education exercises can extinguish groin pain and other symptoms of tight psoas, such as deep belly pain, hip joint pain, or iliopsoas bursitis. You can feel good, again and move well, again, safely fit for all forms of exercise and activity.

See the preview and do a free two-week test of Free Your Psoas. Two weeks is more than enough to feel results; you will start to feel postural and experience movement changes "in the right direction" within the first three days, and to some degree, within the first hour, of practice.

  • Click Free Your Psoas for a video overview of that self-renovation program.
  • Click here to arrange a consultation by telephone or email.

What You Can Do For Yourself

Specific somatic education exercises can extinguish groin pain and other symptoms of tight psoas, such as deep belly pain, hip joint pain, or iliopsoas bursitis. You can feel good, again and move well, again, safely fit for all forms of exercise and activity.

See the preview and do a free two-week test of Free Your Psoas. Two weeks is more than enough to feel results; you will start to feel postural and experience movement changes "in the right direction" within the first three days, and to some degree, within the first hour, of practice.

  • Click Free Your Psoas for a video overview of that self-renovation program.
  • Click here to arrange a consultation by telephone or email.

The Institute for Somatic Study and Development

Herrada Road, Santa Fe, NM

Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E 

Telephone 505 819-0858 | TERMS OF USE | PRIVACY POLICY 

CONTACT  

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION 

The Institute for Somatic Study and Development

Herrada Road, Santa Fe, NM

Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E 

Telephone 505 819-0858 | TERMS OF USE | PRIVACY POLICY 

CONTACT  

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION 

This article covers a lot. I can send it to you in bite-size pieces via email if you enter your name and email address below. I keep your information confidential.

Look for places in this article for where to get information on a self-renovation program to get you feeling good, again.

A summary of points from this article appears, here:

Psoas Muscle Pain: Nine Questions and Answers.

This article covers a lot. I can send it to you in bite-size pieces via email if you enter your name and email address below. I keep your information confidential.

Look for places in this article for where to get information on a self-renovation program to get you feeling good, again.

A summary of points from this article appears, here:

Psoas Muscle Pain: Nine Questions and Answers.

The 3 Biggest Mistakes

People Make When Trying

to Get Out of Physical Pain

The 3 Biggest Mistakes

People Make When Trying

to Get Out of Physical Pain

Psoas muscle pain may show up as groin pain (psoas tendinitis or psoas bursitis), deep pelvic pain (lumbopelvic pain), pain deep in the belly, or lower back ache (not sharp pain) at waist-level. The lower back ache doesn't come directly from the psoas muscles, but from the lower back muscles. Tight psoas muscles also cause pain in the front of the hip joint and are the underlying cause of labrum tears of the hip joint and loss of hip joint cartilage (leading to hip joint replacement surgery). ("Labrum" means, "lip" -- the lip that surrounds the round joint surface at the hip joint.)

Psoas muscle pain may show up as groin pain (psoas tendinitis or psoas bursitis), deep pelvic pain (lumbopelvic pain), pain deep in the belly, or lower back ache (not sharp pain) at waist-level. The lower back ache doesn't come directly from the psoas muscles, but from the lower back muscles. Tight psoas muscles also cause pain in the front of the hip joint and are the underlying cause of labrum tears of the hip joint and loss of hip joint cartilage (leading to hip joint replacement surgery). ("Labrum" means, "lip" -- the lip that surrounds the round joint surface at the hip joint.)

For example, an injury to leg or foot causes us to lift up the leg or foot and to hobble in walking; lifting the leg and hobbling involve the psoas muscles. Repetitive use, as in sitting for long periods perched on the edge of a chair, tensely erect at a high level of concentration, causes a tension habit to form in the muscles of sitting, which include the psoas muscles. Both situations cause muscle/movement memory to change. When muscle/movement memory changes, we end up in a new, habitual state of tension.

We can't stretch, manipulate, massage or adjust muscle/movement memory into changing; we can only retrain muscle/movement memory.

How do we know? Look at the results of those kinds of therapy. Results are telling.

For example, an injury to leg or foot causes us to lift up the leg or foot and to hobble in walking; lifting the leg and hobbling involve the psoas muscles. Repetitive use, as in sitting for long periods perched on the edge of a chair, tensely erect at a high level of concentration, causes a tension habit to form in the muscles of sitting, which include the psoas muscles. Both situations cause muscle/movement memory to change. When muscle/movement memory changes, we end up in a new, habitual state of tension.

We can't stretch, manipulate, massage or adjust muscle/movement memory into changing; we can only retrain muscle/movement memory.

How do we know? Look at the results of those kinds of therapy. Results are telling.

The root the problem is muscle / movement memory. Muscle / movement memory controls and shapes posture and movement. The intense sensations of injury (cringe response/trauma reflex) changes muscle / movement memory in unhealthy ways. 

The root the problem is muscle / movement memory. Muscle / movement memory controls and shapes posture and movement. The intense sensations of injury (cringe response/trauma reflex) changes muscle / movement memory in unhealthy ways. 

People with psoas muscle pain often have a bulging belly. People may think that a bulging belly indicates weak abdominal muscles, but look deeper. Tight psoas muscles, whose tendons pass over the inside of the groin and attach at the inner thigh, push the pubic bone back; the upper pelvis tilts forward; the belly hangs forward and appears to bulge.

People with psoas muscle pain often have a bulging belly. People may think that a bulging belly indicates weak abdominal muscles, but look deeper. Tight psoas muscles, whose tendons pass over the inside of the groin and attach at the inner thigh, push the pubic bone back; the upper pelvis tilts forward; the belly hangs forward and appears to bulge.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ARTICLE

Video 1 of 7 | 2-3 minutes each

INTRODUCTION TO THE ARTICLE

Video 1 of 7 | 2-3 minutes each