According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 80% of all Americans will have low back pain at least once in their lives.  If you’re trying to cure your low back pain, be sure to investigate all possible underlying causes.

Many times, low back pain is called by muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalance comes in many forms. A weak muscle can cause the surrounding muscles to overwork.  On the flip side, short/tense muscles can be an equally problematic source of pain.  When it comes to trunk stability, the Iliopsoas (commonly known as the psoas – pronounced soh-uh s) can be a major player in spine mobility/stability and overall health.

Dysfunctions of the psoas can effect the position of the spine and pelvis and lead to increased stress on the low back.  The psoas serves to stabilize your trunk and pelvic region. It is included in the hip flexor muscle group (think running, walking, biking, squats). Due to its length and support role in the body, dysfunction of the psoas can cause a variety of problems including low back pain.

The psoas is the only muscle in the body to stretch across your pelvis, connecting your spine to your lower body.     Deep stabilizers of the body must achieve the same delicate balance as the Seattle symphony at Benaroya Hall. A loud and off key Tuba (psoas) could ruin the performance… Any of these common symptoms may indicate your Psoas is throwing off your physical performance.

  • Excessive low back curve                      

  • Tight hip flexors

  • Trouble rounding your low back when stretching forward

  • Sitting for long periods of time without getting up

  • Repetitive hip flexion (running, walking, biking, squats)

Due to the attachments of the psoas, a short/tight psoas can force the natural curve of the low back to grow bigger and the pelvis to tilt forward. Not only does this posture push the bones of the spine closer together leading to pain (Ouch!) but it can also weaken glutes and abs, and shorten your hip flexors.   Sitting at a desk all day can mean practicing this posture for hours at a time, creating poor muscle patterns and postural issues. We would recommend getting up and moving around between long stints of seated work.  Most experts recommend moving or stretching at least every 30 minutes.   

It is equally important to combat these imbalances by targeting specific muscle groups during your normal workout routine. The key is to quiet down the overactive muscles and wake up the ones that have trouble helping out.

Here are a few muscles to focus your workout outside of work to balance the musculature of the lumbar back and pelvis:

Strengthen:

  • Transversus Abdominus

  • Pelvic Floor

  • Multifidi

  • Abs

  • Glutes      

Lengthen/Stretch:

  • Hip Flexors

  • Quads

  • Low back

If you want to know which Pilates exercises target these muscle groups, connect with one of our instructors for more information!