There are many causes of low back pain, and it comes in so many different forms – some people have sharp pain, some have a dull ache, while others have it spread down the back of the leg, sometimes right into the foot.
Regardless of how you ‘feel’ your low back pain, one of the major muscles always involved is the Psoas Major muscle. Part of the Iliopsoas muscle, it is an “s” shaped muscle that extends from the 5 lowest spinal vertebra, through the pelvis, to the femur bone.
While involved in many movements, one of the primary jobs of the psoas major is to stabilize the lower back as you lift your knee upwards. This is critical for balance and is a muscle that you use with even the most basic movements of locomotion.
The psoas major will limit lower spine mobility when tense and tired. It is often involved with the type of low back pain that is aggravated by walking up the stairs, standing for long periods of time, or kneeling on both knees with an upright body.
The main thing that causes chronic psoas major tightness is sitting. This is unfortunate, since many people nowadays have to drive a lot, or sit at a desk most of the day. When we sit, we are always in a position that shortens the psoas major muscle. With enough hours behind the desk or in a car, the psoas major becomes perpetually shortened, and its ability to stabilize the lower spine is inhibited. This negative impact is increased for those that also have weak abdominal support muscles.
Having said that, this muscle shortening and tightness is also a problem for athletes, not just for those with weak abdominal muscles. Since the psoas major is supposed to stabilize the lower back as you lift the knee upwards, athletes who exercise with a tight PM elevate their risk of injuring their low back, hip and groin.
The psoas major is supposed to support the lower back as an athlete takes off at a high rate; such as sprinting in basketball, running the bases in baseball, and taking a quick stride in hockey.
It is for this reason that it is important to stretch and warm up the hips and lower back before activity, and to incorporate a regular routine of stretching and strengthening the core muscles for anyone who has to sit each day at school or work.
If you think that you may have a muscle imbalance caused by repetitive sitting, contact a chiropractor today for help. Hire them as a part of your health team – you’ll be glad you did.