Low back pain is one of the most common complaints among Americans. If you are one of these people, then you know discomfort. Low back pain , as suggested, refers to pain in the lower section of your back. It can range from a dull ache to intense stabbing and is often not confined to the back alone. Chances are if you suffer from low back pain you will also notice tightness and discomfort in the hips and sometimes down the front back or sides of your leg(s) as well. Oftentimes sitting for prolonged periods of time or intense activity aggravates the condition. Occasionally a person experiences pain when walking.
The Great Pretender
There are many causes of low back pain including disease, nerve impingement, herniated discs, inflammation and injury. However there is also one very common culprit to many cases of low back pain that often goes ignored and it is not found in your back. In fact it is more easily reached through your abdomen. Often called the “great pretender” due to how often it is the hidden source of back, hip and leg pain, the Psoas is a deep abdominal muscle that originates on the lumbar spine, travels through the pelvis under the “hip bones” (where it is joined by the Iliacus) and inserts onto the top inside of the femur bone.
The Psoas Major muscle and the Iliacus muscle join together to form the Iliopsoas muscle. The Iliopsoas is part of a group of muscles that form the “hip flexors” and much as the name suggests is responsible for flexion of the hip by either bringing your leg(s) up when your trunk is fixed – think walking up stairs, or sitting in a chair – or by bringing the trunk of your body toward your legs when your legs are fixed – think bending to lift something or doing a sit-up or stomach crunch. In other words, the Ilipsoas is a major player in how you move.
But for such an important muscle, the Iliopsoas often gets far less attention than the rest of our bodies when it comes to stretching and massage. But, like any other muscle in our body, it can develop trigger points, become strained, or even shortened (from too much flexion, without enough stretching – think sitting at a desk all day) When this happens we experience pain that in most cases, due to the location of these muscles, is mistaken for pain in our back muscles. Think about when you have low back pain. What do you do? Touch your toes? Twist your back? Usually these back stretches offer little more than a few minutes relief. In fact, with these moves you are often creating more hip flexion when what you body is crying out for is the opposite action!
Next time you experience low back pain try some stretches that open up your abdomen and stretch you iliopsoas such as the ones listed below. If you are experiencing chronic low back pain, incorporate these stretches into your daily routine and talk to your massage therapist about abdominal massage. A skilled massage therapist can access the iliopsoas muscle, usually through the abdomen, to relax the muscle and release trigger points. (Very often once the massage therapist can access and apply pressure to the iliopsoas, the client will report feeling intense sensations exactly where they are experiencing their “low back pain.”) And remember that to maintain a healthy and pain-free back it is equally important to both stretch and strengthen your back and your abdominals.
Best Stretches To Relieve Low Back Pain (click links to get the how-to)
** Please note that this article is for informative purposes only! It is not meant to diagnose your back pain – for that, see your doctor!