How The Psoas Muscle Causes Back Pain - Technique For Living

How The Psoas Muscle Causes Back Pain


The psoas muscle is the main instigator in causing problems with low back pain. It also has a big impact on sciatica. That’s because the psoas is connected to the inner thigh muscle and is deeply affected by how the hips are angled. If your inner thigh is tight then you can guarantee that your psoas muscle is going to be the same. Stretching it out has very little effect those psoas muscles are put under incredible pressure by the hips tipping back.

As you can see there is more pressure on the spine when the hips tip back. They also over stretch the psoas. That’s why physically stretching the muscles isn’t that good. Supporting the hips enables the proper release down of the psoas. This means that the hips shouldn’t tip back. 

There are 3 main reasons why the hips tip back.

  1. We think of our sitting bones as the pointy bits at the back of our backside. The sitting bones are much bigger and longer than this. They are massive. Think of them like 2 long ice skates from the back of the hips (pointy bits) coming forwards to the front (groin). We need equal weight between front and back. It will feel too far forward when you do this at first.

  2. The neck head and back relationship is bad.

  3. You’re doing something with your arms that forces your shoulders forwards.

  4. Your knees are raised too high above your hips.

Most of us don’t realise the extent of the psoas muscle. It takes up a large space below the diaphragm and goes down to the top of the hips. This is where it wraps around the spine. It then goes almost diagonally forwards and down over the front of the sitting bones and attaches to the inside of the femur. Although the inner thigh muscles don’t seem to be directly attached they are inseparable in terms of muscular tension. That is as soon as you tighten your inner thighs you are going to tighten your psoas and pull your hips in some horrid way. So in order to help lower back pain and other parts of the body to get relief, the psoas needs to release in the right way.

What’s the right way to release the psoas then?

Well it needs to release in combination with everything else. Broadly speaking you want to let go of all the muscles in and around your hips. Most of the time this gets mistaken for collapsing. Or tipping the hips back and just letting everything hang out. We need directions to release into otherwise this is what will happen. 

So very simply we need to let go of the belly muscle whilst dropping the weight of the sitting bones. Particularly the front of the sitting bones because this is a place in the body that gets chronically under used for taking your weight. This is how 90% of people cause their lower back pain. For whatever reason they think their sitting bones are the pointy bits that you rock back on when you sit down or that they might put too much pressure on the groin, they tip their hips back.

Saddle Up

If you sit in a saddle it will either exaggerate this or give you something to release into. Not exactly practical I know, but it’s one of the reasons that people use saddle seats. They are quite popular among beauty therapists for this reason. Of course they are also the practical concerns of functioning of the body, particularly digestion. If everything is working harder and tighter there is less surface area to absorb food and your body has to work harder to push everything through. The same goes for your circulation.

Using a saddle seat is an great way to get your psoas muscles releasing.

We might not be able to directly feel the psoas muscle tighten. However, the inner thigh tightening and hips tipping back will give us some strong clues as to what we are doing with it. Then you have to set about getting some release in these areas and surrounding areas and then give it some direction. Of course the moment you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it. But it’s important to decide to head in a particular direction and see to what degree things have gone wrong. That way next time you can be more accurate.

Rowing tips your hips back

There is no better sport to tip your hips back and overtighten the psoas muscle than rowing! The misuse of this particular muscle is how I managed to slip my discs, particularly my L3. Of course rowing can be done without tipping the hips back, but the attitude in training is generally to "pull harder" instead of taking your time. Over the years as I've managed to maintain an awareness of tipping my hips back. This made it possible to walk again and shed layer upon layer of unnecessary tension. You don't have to row to do this much damage to your back. Most people sit in a collapsed state, so something very simple you can do to help this is put cushions or something firmer like a book behind your hips so you can feel contact with it when those hips do tip back.  

About the Author Edward Fisher

Hi, I'm Edward Fisher and I believe that everyone can have a life free from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and many other musculoskeletal pain related conditions. I recovered from slipped discs and sciatica. I spent 10 months being unable to walk. After 3 months of Alexander Technique I was walking again. Now I show others how to overcome their own pain related conditions for themselves.

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  • Can you feel it when your hips tip back? Do you notice yourself feeling slumped in your lower back? What do you do to help yourself in this situation? I hope you found this interesting please share or comment if you did.

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