Vitamin M: Your Psoas hates you

Your Psoas is a muscle found deep inside your body and it hates you. It hates you more than you know, but it’s all your fault. Your Psoas was once a happy elastic pliable muscle filled with joy and only good intentions. Then things changed. You had to sit for hours on end because of school, then university and work. You also chose to sit endlessly in your free time, watching TV, playing games. You stopped moving through a full range of motion. You stopped moving in different ways, running, jumping, balancing, stretching and playing like when you were 5. Instead you played some sport or jogged or went to the gym thinking that this was enough. Enough to be healthy, mobile and pain free. Wrong! All those activities are patterns or collections of patterns that get repeated over and over and over ….. Yes the sports have a little bit more variety and chaos inherent in them, but doing one sport does not give you enough movement variety.

What is a Psoas anyway?

The Psoas is a muscle found in the Lumbar region of your body. It has attachment points on the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae and the femur. It is the largest and strongest member of the group of muscles known as the hip flexors. It is a connection between the upper and lower halves of the body.

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A tight or fatigued Psoas can be responsible for many issues in the body, from lower back pain, hip issues to posture related problems.

Your body is awesome, but also a not so awesome…

The human body is an adaptation engine, it adapts to do what we ask of it and the things we don’t ask, it forgets how to do those.

If you don’t use it you lose it!

The movements we don’t do, we lose. The ranges we don’t use, we lose. It take energy to maintain ranges of motion, for the stabilizing muscle to work to keep stability in a healthy and mobile joint. When we don’t use that joint fully our body goes, “ well you’re not using it , so lets just tighten up the fascia to keep that joint stable so we don’t waste any energy.” Now you go through your daily life doing your day to day basic shit and someone says think fast and throws an ancient porcelain vase at you. You reach to catch it and you strain a hip flexor or your lowerback. Why? Because you never used your full range of motion on a regular basis and now your full range is diminished.

The example I gave is ridiculous and there are simpler examples like sitting and studying for hours on end, then going for a run and your lower back hurts. Sitting all day then going to play golf and your back gives out on your swing. You strain a groin kicking because your hips are tight and your stabilizers have become weak.

You body does your day to day things well, but can't handle the exceptions because your lifestyle does not prepare you for it. Your lifestyle is making you FRAGILE!

So whats the solution?

Move through a full range in many different ways. This applies to all the joints in the body and there are many ways to do it. The video below is a starting point. It is movements based on a Yoga sequence and It takes your hips through a full range of motion. (I got it from a YouTube yoga video a while ago, which I can't find now. I'll link the channel when I find it.) Do this or variations of this 2 – 3 times per week to get your hips loose. You can do parts of it or the whole thing. Do it before or after training, do it in a study break, do it at work. Just do it.

 If one of the movements gives you pain. Don’t do it. If part of a movement gives you pain, stay out of the painful range. What you want to feel is a stretch, not pain.

The sequence

  • Downward dog - Hold for 10- 20 sec
  • Down Lunge - drop and raise 3- 6 times
  • Side lunge reach - hold for 10-20 sec
  • Kneeling lunge - Reach up and to the side 3-6 times, turn towards front leg repeat the reach
  • High Lunge - Do the same as with the kneeling lunge
  • Windmill - lower down sliding your arm along the inside of  leg that is turned out, 3- 6 times
  • Repeat sequence on the other side

There you have it. Its a simple routine to do. You can scale it to your ability, you want to feel a light stretch not a horrific tearing sensation. One session is not going to create miracles but moving through a range of motion regularly and challenging it will create an improvement. It took time to lose your mobility it will take time to regain it.

by Llewellyn Morkel

Vitamin M: Change your Movement Paradigm

Today we have a guest post by Tracy Ellis, she is a physiotherapist who works with a wide variety of clients. From athletes performing at elite levels to your everyday person working a 9 – 5 job. Read, enjoy and improve your movement.

By Tracy Ellis

Have you ever wondered why you still feel that annoying niggle in your neck after you have sat at your desk for too many hours again? Perhaps that deadline snuck upon you and despite your efforts of ensuring you have the correct chair and the ideal table height the tightness and discomfort returns. Often these niggles have come and gone and all your medical advice has been to exercise regularly, adjust your work station so that it can be ergonomically correct, stretch often and take regular breaks. Maybe you have a different niggle… it can be knee pain from a lot of training in one week and then squatting down for hours on a Saturday while doing work in the garden or sanding. It can be any niggle that comes and goes which is usually related to maintaining a position for a long time.

Our bodies are connected by an intricate mesh of connective tissue called fascia which has been described in detail by Thomas Myers. This fascia adapts to what we do to our bodies. Despite its valuable function to support our bodies and transfer force during movement it can also hinder us, if we do not treat it with respect. Most of us have taken the advice to stretch your gluts several times or your quads on numerous occasions but that lower back pain always returns after sitting or standing for an hour… Well this is most likely due to a stiffening of the fascia which connects your hips to your lower back.

Or maybe your niggle is not related to static positions but to movement such as knee pain after doing squats or running? Any change in the alignment of the fascia can alter our joint position. Therefore if you use your muscles during activity and your joint position has been changed from stiff fasica, this can lead to pain and injury. Perhaps this will answer your question on why you still have this pain. Even though you did your hour of exercise before or after work and stretched but that pain is still returning.

This brings me to my next point…WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE THINK ABOUT MOVEMENT AND APPLY THIS TO OUR DAILY LIFESTYLES.

This connective tissue in our bodies responds really well to regular movement. Depending on how you move you can achieve the optimal position for each joint in the body and therefore reach your full performance potential during training. The fascia is easily manipulated via regular movement around the stiff part of your body. Sometimes you do need help if you have been “stuck” for a long time by a manual therapist but generally you can manage this by changing your lifestyle.

Let me introduce you to some practical tips on changing your lifestyle in the hope to free up your thinking about movement…

1.      Since your laptop is mobile. Use it on the floor and lie down to mobilise the anterior line of fascia or lie on your side propped up on your elbow to mobilise the lateral line and strengthen the shoulder stabilising muscles.

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2.      Use low tables (quite easily made up from materials at home) and sit on the floor cross-legged to mobilise the hips while working, writing or eating dinner.

3.      Sit on low stools/wooden stumps around the braai to loosen up the hips and encourage the muscle on your back to hold you upright.

4.      Squat down to take things out of low cupboards instead of bending through your spine.

These principles can be introduced in a work environment too..

5.      Encourage standing meetings done around a counter while drinking coffee and discussing topics

6.      Bring your swiss ball from home and sit on your ball interspersed with sitting on your chair.

7.      Invest in a standing desk and activate your gluts again!

8.      Move the copy machine away from your forcing you to get up often and walk.

9.      Use the stairs.

10.  Set reminders on your computer to get up every half hour. Stretch your arms upwards and  touch your toes and twist through your spine before sitting again.

11.  Organise a group at work to share the cost of bringing in a pilates or yoga instructor to give  lunch time classes for a half hour to refresh your mind, improve blood circulation and move your body. This will in the long run definitely increase your work productivity and manage your aches and pains.

These are only a few examples of how to move more and encourage different positions in normal daily routines. Make this as practical for you with minimal effort to ensure you will do it. It is a simple adjustment.

I like to use these movement based stretches that I learnt from Dr. Lawrence van Lingen on a daily basis. This ensures that my fascia is mobile and keep the niggles away:

1.      The Awesomiser: ensure your foot is as high as you can manage, keep the hips facing forwards and feet straight. Lean forward with your hip and twist your upper body towards the lifted, bent knee. Repeat x 6/6

2.      Scorpion rolls: bend the one knee and lift the leg backwards aiming for the opposite hand. Let the knee drop down towards the ground and hold the position while taking three deep diaphragmatic breaths. Repeat x 6/6

3.      Kneeling twist: keep the hips facing forwards and the bent knee facing forwards. Lift your pelvis upwards towards your face and rotate the upper body and hip towards the front knee. Repeat x 6/6

4.      Walk stance twist: keep the feet facing forwards and arms in a straight line with your shoulders. Bend the front knee and twist the upper body and shoulders to reach the outside foot of the bent knee with your opposite hand. Repeat x 6/6

Change the way you think and improve the way you move!