You may have been experiencing pain and difficulty walking. You’ve been told that you have a tight psoas muscle and require certain stretching exercises to release the muscle and restore flexibility. In many cases, this is helpful advice and stretches are effective at loosening your psoas. However, psoas muscle stretches may not always work to relieve symptoms.
Having a tight psoas is a common problem felt by everyone from active professional athletes to those bound by a sedentary desk job. If stretching doesn’t fix the problem, what will? Read on to find out more!
What Is the Psoas Muscle?
The psoas muscle, or psoas major, is a core muscle that attaches the lumbar vertebrae to a bone known as the lesser trochanter, which is located near the head of the femur in the hip.
So, what does the psoas muscle do?
- It flexes the hip, bringing the knee in toward the stomach. Which is why you may get a tight psoas if you have a desk job.
- It adducts the hip. If you squeeze your knees together, you’re using your psoas muscles.
- It allows the feet to point outward, like ballet dancers can do.
- And lastly, because of its attachments to the lumbar vertebrae, the psoas is responsible for bending the spine to the side or the motion of moving the hips up one at a time, like when climbing stairs.
What Does a Tight Psoas Muscle Feel Like?
Chronic tightness in the psoas can reveal itself in numerous ways, including:
- Tension or pain in the lower back, hips, pelvis, groin, or buttocks
- Spasms in the lower back
- Snapping hip syndrome
- Pain that radiates down the leg
- Lumbar disc issues
- Functional leg length discrepancy
- Limited flexibility, particularly in the lower back
- Idiopathic scoliosis
Tightness of the psoas muscle is linked not only to overuse (such as in athletes) and limited movement (like with office work), but has also been related to physical and emotional trauma. When you feel stress or fear, the psoas muscle, which is located in the core of the body, may instinctively tighten.
Why Doesn’t Stretching Relieve Psoas Tightness?
Tension in the psoas is the result of involuntary muscle contraction, which is controlled by the nervous system. Your nervous system tends to learn from our chronic actions, so repetitive motions and chronic stress, teach the nervous system to maintain tension within certain muscles, like the psoas.
Stretching may temporarily override this learned process, but the effect won’t last long. Your nervous system will take back over and your muscles will return to their “normal” function, which is tensed.
What Will Relieve Psoas Tightness?
If regular stretching doesn’t help relieve the muscle tightness of your psoas, it’s possible you need to try something different. You’ll want to reset the resting level of tension that the nervous system has set. You can do this through pandiculation.
What is pandiculation? It is a neuromuscular re-education technique used to retrain your nervous system and relieve tension in your muscles. Pandiculation was developed by Thomas Hanna, the founder of Clinical Somatic Education. It involves a particular method of contracting and releasing your muscles so feedback is sent to your nervous system to relax and reset the tension levels in your body.
The benefits of pandiculation go beyond retraining the nervous system to reset the level of muscle tightness. It alleviates pain in the joints and muscles, it helps improve posture and movement, and it prevents recurring injuries.
In order to understand tightness in the psoas muscle, you must realize that it’s most likely not the result of a condition or limitation of movement. Rather, each movement you make involves numerous muscles working together. The tightness is not just in the psoas muscle, but in the surrounding joints and muscles, as well.
Therefore, focusing solely on the psoas muscle will not help your situation. You must work with the entire group of affected muscles to see results. Pandiculation is highly effective at working the overall muscle group, working on relieving the entire area of tension.