If you’ve experienced low back pain or tightness, you know how limiting it can be physically and mentally in your daily life. You’re not alone — it’s estimated that lower back issues may affect up to 80% of people during their lifetime, and this can happen across all ages.
For some, their low back pain can resolve quickly with some stretching and massage. For others who aren’t as fortunate, low back pain can become chronically tight and painful, and those methods may only provide temporary relief.
If the pain and tightness you’re feeling in your low back continues to return, it’s an indication that you have not yet addressed the true root cause of the issue. You have simply been managing symptoms caused by a larger issue hidden from your view.
It’s likely all about a core muscle called the psoas (pronounced SO-as).
Anatomy and function of the muscle
The psoas connects to the T12 – L5 vertebrae in your spine and travels through the pelvis, where it then crosses the front of the hip joint and inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur near the inside of the groin. At this insertion point, the psoas is one of two muscles, along with the iliacus, that come together and create what is known as the iliopsoas tendon. They connect the upper and lower halves of your body together at your “core” and are used in nearly everything that you do daily.
The psoas muscles rarely get the chance to relax. Because of this, it’s easy to overexert your psoas muscles and develop trigger points and cause pain. A psoas trigger point (AKA muscle knot) is a contracted area within the muscle or fascial tissue that doesn’t seem to let go. These trigger points can be the cause of your pain, tightness, and range of motion restrictions felt in your body. Symptoms of psoas trigger points include both localized0- felt in the immediate area surrounding the muscle knot- and referred pain patterns- felt elsewhere in the body. Referred pain is exactly what may be contributing to your lower back pain.
Tight psoas also inhibits your ability to fully engage the glute and hamstring muscles to extend your hip. This may result in pain or discomfort when performing this motion, such as pushing off with each step when walking or running, when going from seated to standing, and even when standing for longer periods of time.
Some common causes of psoas trigger points include sitting too long, workouts without hip flexor recovery, weak hip flexors and hypermobile joints.
What is the best way to release iliopsoas trigger points?
When it comes to releasing trigger points, there are 3 main ways: stretching, massaging, and applying pressure on their muscles.
It may require the help of a skilled therapist to assist you on releasing the muscle because the psoas muscle is located deeper within the core.
-Kaitlyn St. Martin, RMT