Core strength. Flat abs. Low back Health. You have heard all these buzz words and likely read a thing or two about the best way to achieve them.  But one aspect of low back health you may not have thought about is a major muscle that makes a big difference.  It’s called the Psoas.  Psoas low back pain is not something you have to live with.

The psoas is a large muscle that attaches to the front of the lumbar spine and then to your pelvis and femur bone.  It is responsible for flexing your legs past 30 degrees.  This muscle can either be a great “team player” in symmetrically activating your pelvic muscles, or it can play havoc on your low back alignment, causing extras stress and pressure on the lumbar spine.  It is very important, therefore, to select exercises and movements that don’t cause you to overuse your psoas and cause injury.

One very common exercise that should not be performed is the classic abdominal “Crunch”.  This can cause psoas low back pain in some cases.This exercise consists of bringing your knees to your chest from a laying position; commonly this is called a Sit-Up.  The reason this is a terrible exercise is because the abdominal muscle are only active for the first 30 degrees of the exercise.  After that, the psoas muscle contracts.  When the psoas muscle contracts in this position, is exerts tremendous forces on the low back, potentially causing injury to spinal discs and ligaments.  The force from the psoas causes compressive forces to the lumbar discs, which can cause them to fail, resulting in a bulging or herniated disc.  Who would have though a simple Sit-Up could be so dangerous?

Want an alternative? Check out the Cross Cut Abdominal exercise in our video below:

A few exercises can be implemented to prevent excessive stress to the low back.  But as always, talk with one of our doctors before beginning any new exercise routines.  You may have a structural shift that must be addressed first before it is safe to perform certain exercises.

The pelvic tilt is the first exercise that should be mastered.  It is a simple exercise but uses many key abdominal muscles.  Begin here if you are just starting out.  Next, a modified abdominal crunch on an exercise ball is a great way to still activate the core stabilizing muscles.  Be sure to limit the crunch to no more than 30 degrees flexion.  Lastly, an isometric abdominal bridge is also recommended to increase endurance, strength and stability.  The bridge will help your stabilizing muscle work more efficiently.


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