Almost everyone knows at least one person who suffers from back pain, you may have it yourself. So why is back pain so common? The answer is simple; we sit too much. Think of your typical day. How many hours do you spend sitting? According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average adult spends over 6 hours each day sitting. Which isn’t healthy.
When we sit for long amounts of time a muscle called the psoas shortens, which can lead to pain in your lower back. Stretching has been shown to help lengthen the psoas muscle and decrease this discomfort. However, before we begin to use stretches to alleviate our back pain we must first understand what the psoas muscle does and why issues can arise when it is shortened and not functioning properly.
What is the psoas?
The psoas is the primary muscle in a muscle group appropriately named the ‘hip flexors’. The main function of this group of muscles is to flex our hips. We use these muscles when we walk as we push ourselves forward with each stride we take. When we sit, this muscle is shortened and inactive. Over time, this can lead to the psoas not functioning properly which can make movement painful. In addition to painful movement, a shortened psoas can cause lower back pain.
This happens because our psoas originates on our lumbar spine, from the L1-L4 discs of our spine to be exact. From there, the psoas sweeps around and over our hip bone to connect on the front part of our respective femur bones. Picture wearing your favorite pair of jeans. Our psoas runs from where the waistband of your jeans lies on your spine and ends at the front pockets of your jeans.
When this muscle shortens, both places where the psoas connects are impacted. Since we spend so much time sitting, most people have a chronically shortened psoas and will suffer issues associated with it. Lengthen your psoas by stretching is a quick and effective way to begin relieving your back pain.
Why stretching helps
Any form of stretching that incorporates movements that lengthen your psoas and hip flexor muscles will help to promote muscle flexibility. Some great hip flexor stretches include:
Not only does stretching help to lengthen and increase flexibility in the psoas muscle itself, but it also helps to reduce tension within tendons that control the diaphragm. This can help to lower stress levels within our body by shifting our breathing pattern down away from our shoulders into our lower chest and abdomen. More information on stress, breathing techniques, and back pain can be found here.
Yoga is the perfect mixture of stretching to promote full-body flexibility and mindful breathing techniques to help reduce emotional stress and promote mental wellbeing.
Build stretching into your normal routine
In addition to the stretches listed above, yoga provides the perfect mixture of stretching to promote flexibility and mindful breathing techniques to help reduce stress and promote mental wellbeing. Setting aside 5-10 minutes each day to stretch or practice yoga can have an amazing impact on the health of your back and hip flexor muscles. If you’re interested in learning more about how to help build stretching into your normal routine, connect with one of our Telespine Health Coaches.
Ussery EN, Fulton JE, Galuska DA, et al. Joint Prevalence of Sitting Time and Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among US Adults, 2015-2016. JAMA. 2018; 320(19):2036-2038.