How Can I Make My Back Pain Go Away? Psoas Stretch


Have you ever stood up from sitting a long time only to feel an ache deep in your back along your waistline? Have you ever asked yourself “Why am I so stiff after sitting a while?”

If so, a common reaction usually is reaching back and grabbing one side of your back or the other (sometimes it’s both sides) and forcing yourself into a standing position only to pause when you get there because you don’t know what’s going to happen next!

You, my friend, have just met your tight Psoas muscle. Pronounce that “So-Az”.

It’s a major player in your lower back and can cause a lot of problems when it’s tight. This is because its involved in stabilizing you anytime when you’re upright and also helps you walk. It does a lot of things.

Where Is The Psoas Muscle

When I say it does a lot of things, I am not kidding. You have 2 of these (left and right)  buried deep in your abdomen along the front side of your spine.

It attaches to each of the lower 5 (at least) vertebrae in your back. Then it runs through your pelvis and escapes down near your pubic area only to attach on the inside of your upper thigh.

Because it attaches at the lower part of your backbone, it has to do a lot of work because that’s where a lot of motion takes place. It influences and has to stabilize your lower back when you’re up walking around or carrying something or even doing sit ups.

It truly is at the core of your body and thus all “core workouts” should target and hit the psoas to keep it conditioned and flexible.

What Does The Psoas Muscle Do?

Now, I’ve already mentioned what it does for stabilizing your back so that you’re head and shoulders are not bobbing from side to side while you’re walking, but it does more.

The psoas is basically the prime mover when it comes to you walking. Yep, this is the muscle that bends your hip to lift your foot while you’re walking, climbing, dancing, or kicking the cat.

Naturally these are only the basic movements that it does. As with any of your muscles, there are a gazillion more things that they do without your even being aware of it. You really are put together well. The more you understand about it, the better you appreciate it.

How Does The Psoas Get Tight?

So how do these muscles start to give us trouble? Well, to put it bluntly, they get tight by sitting too much. That’s the major theme of the most of my articles on physical activity and the need to move more.

When you’re sitting, the psoas is put in a shortened position. When you’re sitting and bent forward over a keyboard or desk, it gets even more shorter.

When you work from this position for a good part of your day, or during the commute, the muscle gets tighter and tighter. And when it’s tight, it’s harder to get to an erect standing posture when you’re getting up from a sitting position.

Symptoms Caused By Tight Psoas

Not only is it difficult to get out of the flexed posture of sitting, it hurts. One of the hallmark signs of a tight psoas is a deep ache across the beltline along your back when getting out of a chair or after you’ve tried to walk any distance.

Many people have trouble when they go shopping and need to find a place to sit down or drape themselves over the shopping cart at the grocery store as the wheel along. This posture sort of puts the torso and hips into a flexed position and takes the strain off of the shortened and tight psoas.

If you think about it, your body is in the same position of being bent at the hips as it is when you’re sitting. This position makes the short psoas happy. It’s not getting overworked because it doesn’t have to help keep you upright and try to help move your legs at the same time.

A tight psoas can also contribute to bulging or ruptured spinal discs, lower back strain, and even impotence in men.

How To Stretch The Psoas

So, there’s ample reason for you to keep these important muscles happy and flexible. Some say stretching this puppy is the exercise you want to do for back pain. One of the best ways to do this is simply to walk. A regular walking program will do wonders for your back stabilizers and the mobility in your hips.

Many people who start walking and then quickly feel pain in the lower back quit the program before they have fully assessed whether or not walking is going to help.

It’s natural for you to feel some discomfort after being sedentary for a long time, any activity is not going to feel great. But, if you sit for a living at a desk or in a car or what have you, getting off your butt is the first thing you need to think about doing.

So how can you stretch this particular muscle? By getting out of the sitting position and making your hips and back as straight as you can.

Now, for some people with really tight psoas muscles, simply lying down flat in bed or on the floor without putting anything under your knees will allow the psoas to lengthen. Or, you could lye down on your stomach with a pillow lengthwise under your torso for support.

If you want something a little more active, one of the easiest ways is to do what I call “The Captain Morgan”. I got that from looking at the picture on a rum bottle.

To do it correctly, you simply put your foot flat, up on a flat and stable surface, like a counter top. Or, for some people, it’s about as high as a barstool (please don’t use an actual bar stool as they tend to swivel). I personally use the top of a dresser in my bedroom.

With one foot (and knee)  high in the air, the other, or grounded, foot and leg remain straight and flat on the floor. It’s the muscle that is attached to this grounded leg that gets the stretch. You can increase the stretch by placing your grounded foot further back to the rear.

Find Out Which One Is Best For You

There are several variations of a good psoas stretch. You can see my videos to see some of the variations.

The bottom line is this: If you sit most of your day at a desk or a computer, you need to get up and move. If you can’t move well,  you need to stretch so that you can move better.

Sitting down all day long is going to kill you.

The Hamstrings connection