What the Heck is a Psoas?

You think you know all the major muscle groups of the body right?

Biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, calves, abs, lats, lower back, and every other muscle grouping that we see on those classic body building machines are almost second nature to us!

Your coach says “squeeze you lats” and you pinch your armpit. “Push your knees out” and your adductors (outside part of your hip) squeeze to bring the knees out.

What if I said “roll out your Psoas?”

How many of us are going to google right now to look it up? (Try checking it out here instead:

It’s a funny looking muscle that attaches in some really odd spots. What if I told you, it is a main contributor to back stiffness (especially if that run today is making your back tight)!

What Does The Psoas DO?

The Psoas is a muscle group (Psoas Major and Minor/Iliopsoas) that attaches on the outside of your lumbar spine, goes down through the pelvis, and attaches on the inside of your femur.

It is responsible for connecting your upper and lower body as well as helping pick up your femur (flexing the hip).

Why Would It Cause Back Pain When I Run and Jump?

Muscles are really neat. They are these collections of fibers that tense up when our brains want a given tasks done through electrical impulses.

They are also awesome as they experience stress they can micro tear, repair, grow, and adapt so the next time we go through that stimulus, we are more prepared.

Sometimes during that repair process our brains will tell that muscle to stay tense and create knots on the muscle.

Since muscles are like that cables of a suspension bridge, if you tighten up a couple strands, you’ll create more tension at the connecting points.

For the Psoas that means when you run, jump, or just raise your knee in general while it is tight, that force is going to be translated to the lower back!

When the Psoas gets really tight, it can almost feel like you’ve thrown your back and running can become unbearable!

How Do You Help Psoas Tightness?

First, make sure that your pain isn’t acute or prolonged. If you’re sitting at work and can’t sit up straight due to pain, chances are you should be heading to your doctor rather than reading this blog.

But, if you’re usually fine and just when you start to move things start getting uncomfortable, try some of these things out!

  1. Couch Stretch (2 Minutes Each Side, Sitting as Upright as Possible.
    • Long Static Stretching after your workout can do wonders for helping stretch this muscle. Rather than going for the full stretch of the middle quad, it is better to place your back knee right where you feel tension in your lower abdomen. That weird stretch sensation of the back leg into the abdomen is the Psoas Getting Stretched!
  2. Psoas Roll Out
    • This is a hard one to find as you actually don’t roll it out by laying on your back. You actually need something rigid enough that when you put your stomach on it, it can reach the Psoas at the back of the abdominal cavity. The object usually is placed about 2-3 finger widths in from the pelvis and you put a good amount of your body weight into it. You’ll know once you find the knot as it has been described to me as “getting hit in the nuts and punched in the stomach at the same time.” (Full disclosure rolling this out feels like rolling out your IT band in terms of pain). I personally use a 70# Kettlebell Handle to roll this out when it causes me pain.

Give ‘Em a Try!

If you’re feeling stiff when you go for your runs today, try one of these after to see if it relieves some of that post run tightness for you!

The next thing to try is to keep the abs engaged while you run so that you don’t bend your lower back, helping get the Psoas tight in the first place!

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