Back Pain Stretches: The Psoas Stretch

Stretching: A Good Low Back Pain Exercise

This post on lower back stretches is about stretching the psoas muscle. The psoas (pronounced so-as) is a very important muscle when it comes to having a healthy back. Targeting it for low back pain exercise is important.

When the psoas is tight, it causes a lot different problems. When it’s tight it can actually make it difficult for anyone to stand up from a sitting position. It can also cause pain across the beltline in your back when you try to stand up straight. And, a tight psoas will make it very difficult for you to be able to walk for long periods of time without having anything to lean on like a shopping cart for instance.

So, what is this particular muscle? I like to say that it’s located on the “front of the back”. What I mean by this is that it attaches to the front of the back bone. It’s deep in your abdomen behind your stomach, intestines and all the rest of the stuff in there.

You have two. Left and right. They attach to (at least) the last 5 lumbar vetebrae (in some people the attachment to the spine goes higher than the lumbar vertebrae) and travel down and attach to the inside of the upper thigh bone.

These muscles are important in so many different ways. The following examples will show just how much work these muscles actually do. For one, they act as the primary stabilizers for your lumbar spine. If you reach out to the side or bend over sideways, it’s the psoas that works to stop you from falling over sideways.

If you are reaching above your head, or stretching by bending backward, it’s the psoas that stops you from falling over backward.

The Psoas Moves The Legs and Curls The Trunk. So you can see that for back pain, exercising it would be a good low back pain exercise.

Most people don’t realize it, but when they are doing sit-ups or leg lifts when working on their abdominals, your psoas is doing a large part of the work too because apart from stabilizing the spine, the psoas works to curl the knees toward the chest.

This muscle is also the primary muscle that lifts your leg out in front of you when you’re walking and also raises your knee when you are marching.

As you can see, this particular muscle is responsible for a lot of activity that goes on in your body. And, because it has such a big role to play in a lot of aspects of our everyday lives, if it’s not flexible or limber enough, it can really limit how much we can do and how comfortable we are doing it.

How To do This Low Back Pain Exercise

In order to stretch the psoas, it’s important to keep some things in mind. For starters, it’s good to realize that you don’t have to be aggressive when it comes to stretching. Consistency and awareness is what’s really important.

When you do get the right stretch going, you should feel some gentle tension in the lower abdomen and into the upper front part of the thigh. I will walk you through a few ways to stretch it below.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it pays to really be aware of what you are feeling and experiencing when you are stretching. Stretching deliberately will help you stay focused on what you are doing in the moment of the stretch.

One more thing to keep in mind is that stretching is not supposed to be a painful thing. It may be uncomfortable, but the discomfort should be kept at it’s very minimum.

Our bodies are a lot smarter than we think. If we get too aggressive or we aren’t paying attention to it then the muscle might actually contract because of an inbuilt protection reflex.

Stretching the psoas can be done in several ways. It’s probably a good idea to try several ways to stretch to see which one gives you the most benefit. Like with any stretching program, don’t be too aggressive. A slow, gentle, and prolonged stretch will give you the best results.

The general position for stretching the psoas is with one leg forward and the other backward. There are a lot of ways to get this done. Just remember that the stretches are gentle and should be held for 30-60 seconds and repeated for 3-5 reps on each leg.

Method 1. Lay down on your back across your bed with both legs hanging down to the floor at the knee. Using your hands, pull one knee up toward your chest. If your feet are not able to touch the ground, this motion will stretch the psoas on the opposite leg.

Method 2. Place an upright chair (without arms) in front of a normal doorway. You stand on the opposite side of the doorway facing the seat of the chair. Standing in the same spot, place one of your feet on the seat of the chair while you hold on to the door posts for balance. Then simply bend the knee of the forward leg while keeping the rear foot completely on the ground. You’ll end up in a “lunge” position. This should put a good stretch on the front part of the rear leg.

Method 3. The proposal stretch. I call it this because to do it is like a guy asking a girl to get married. If it’s not too painful, you kneel on one knee with the opposite foot flat on the ground. The front foot should be in front of it’s knee, not right below it. To do this stretch, you simply lunge forward bending the front knee and stretch the front of the rear thigh.

So, in summary, a tight psoas can cause a lot of pain across the beltline or waist, especially when trying to stand up straight. This is because it’s attaches to the front side of the spine and pulls on it when standing up.

This muscle works to stabilize the back bone when you’re bending and reaching and it also helps to move the legs when you’re walking or running.

Keeping this muscle stretched out is very important when it comes to having a healthy back. And a good lower back pain exercise program should include a regular stretching program for the psoas muscle.

Try one of the three stretches mentioned above and see which one gives you the best results. Go at it slowly and gently so as not to cause any additional pain. Keeping the back healthy with low back pain exercise is a good prescription for staying active and having more fun.