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  • Writer's pictureNicole Atkinson

It’s hip to be cool, but not cool to be hip

In my 20+ of years of experience as a physiotherapist, I've encountered many hidden causes of recurrent low back pain. One crafty culprit can be found buried deep in the hip and pelvis and is called the psoas.

What is a psoas? More commonly known as the hip flexor, it is a band of muscles that stretches from the lower spine, through the pelvis and attaches to the top of the thigh bone. The main job of the psoas is to flex the thigh bone at the hip, but it is also believed to contribute to rotation of the thigh, as well as to increasing the natural curvature of the lower spine (lordosis).

Why it’s important: The psoas is very actively involved in locomotion (ie. walking, running, skating). It is in a shortened position when you bend forward at the hip. This tends to be a common position for hockey players in particular as they spend extended periods of time (no pun intended) leaning forward in pursuit of a puck. This can lead to chronically short hip flexors which can cause biomechanical malalignment in the legs and spine, predisposing one to injuries in the lower back (ie. muscle strain), the knee (ie. patello-femoral syndrome) and even the ankle (ie. tendinitis). Prolonged sitting in our daily lives (at work, in our cars, etc) can also contribute to shortened psoas muscles.

How to stay in the game: A good warm up and stretching routine is essential for injury prevention. In order to keep your hip flexors healthy, try this stretch before and after sports as well as throughout the day if you sit for prolonged periods. Kneel on the floor, place one foot out in front of you so you are in a lunge position, then, keeping your back straight, gently press the hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

What you can do if you get injured: Acute injuries in the lower extremities and back tend to respond quite well to conventional therapies, however, if a chronically short psoas is a contributing factor and goes undetected, these injuries could eventually become a recurring problem. A thorough examination by a registered physiotherapist includes a scan of the hip. Once the root cause of the symptoms is determined, an appropriate treatment plan can be implemented and the injured individual can begin to experience longer lasting relief, which means an increased chance of achieving complete resolution so they can return to the sports/activities they love without pain.

How our clinic is different: At TruHealth Physiotherapy, we use Electro-Acuscope micro-current technology to treat such conditions. Electro-Acuscope is a pain free treatment which uses electricity (below the sensitivity threshold) to reduce tension and accelerate healing in the affected tissues. Most people experience some level of pain relief following even their first session, however it can take up to 3-6 treatments to begin seeing long lasting benefits. This treatment is typically used in conjunction with an exercise program in order to stretch short muscles and strengthen weak ones. Other commonly used therapies at TruHealth include therapeutic taping, deep tissue massage, cupping massage, acupuncture, bracing and custom foot orthotics.

If you've been experiencing recurrent or chronic pain and would like to know if your psoas could be the instigator, contact us today to schedule a consultation and discover how we can help you return to the activities you love without pain.

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