The psoas are deep muscles that run down the body on a diagonal from thoracic vertebrae 12 through the pelvis and then to the inside of the upper femur. We actually have two psoa, one on each side of the spine (technically psoai, not psoas when referring to the two-I’m going to use the term psoas throughout the article to keep it simple). The psoas has caused pain in my back, abdomen and even my thigh and knee on occasion.  My psoas were shortened due to past trauma, poor alignment and years of sitting all day in school. Our bodies are not designed for sitting all day long, wearing restrictive shoes with heels (even 1-inch heels will throw off your alignment).

The lumbar plexus, a network of intersecting nerves and vessels, runs through the layers of the psoas, so when the psoas is shortened it can affect the pelvic floor, legs, low back, spine, abdomen, internal organs, and the diaphragm. It can even contribute to ovulation discomfort and nerve pain that runs down into the knee. The ovaries, which can double in size during ovulation, sit very close to the psoas especially when the uterus is tipped back and the psoas is already shortened, this can irritate and the genitofemoral nerve (see image below) causing pain in the thigh and knee.

genitofemoral nerve running through psoas

Emotions affect the psoas as well. The psoas fires under the fight or flight response. We either curl into a ball or flee under this stress response, both of which requires the psoas to fire into action. Imagine being under chronic stress where you can’t flee (deadlines, traffic, negative emails, etc.), the psoas is still receiving the signals to run away or kick someone’s ass, but of course, we don’t follow through. The result is chronically shortened muscles and a frayed nervous system.

There are psoai releases that are extremely helpful (see suggestion below), but 30 minutes or even two hours of releases every day does not undo the other 12 hours of 90-degree hip flexion, rib thrusting, poor pelvic alignment and chronic stress. Your body will remember whatever position you hold it in the longest.

Getting started:

1. Transition into wearing flexible flat shoes.
2. Reduce caffeine intake (and Bruce Willis films). Both of which stimulate the sympathetic nervous system.
3. Reciprocal arm swing- let your arms swing naturally while you walk if you aren’t carrying a something of course. Women tend to hold their arms close to their body or keep their hands in your pockets while walking.The reciprocal arm swing keeps your torso steady so your psoas doesn’t have to twist and propel you forward.
4. Get a dynamic workstation if possible. And vary your position throughout the day.
5. Back your ass up and stop using your psoai as a seatbelt.
6. Frankie Says Relax the Psoas and Leg Goes Forward, Leg Goes Back Alignment Snack.
7. No one area works in isolation, that goes for the psoas as well. That’s why it’s important to take a whole body approach.

Read about the emotional psoas and do this test to see if your psoas is shortened. Click here.

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