Groin and Low Back Pain - Iliopsoas the Hidden Prankster
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If you sit a lot, because you drive long distances, work at a desk, craft or quilt, or watch a lot of tv, you may have the same type of muscular problem that many athletes have, especially athletes who play hockey, broomball, volleyball, or basketball, or who cycle, run, snowmobile, motocross, or skate. You may get that awful pain that never goes away for long.
A pain that can range from a deep ache you can’t quite pinpoint to a burning or pulling ache in your lower back to a strong pain in your groin. You may also get pains in your abdomen, pelvic floor, buttocks, and even down into your thighs.

So, what do all of the physical activities above, from sitting to skating, have in common? They all have either a bent-forward posture or a leg lifting posture, both of which result from flexing of the hips. The hips flex with the help of a group of muscles called the hip flexors.
The main hip flexor of the body is a big muscle called the iliopsoas. It connects near the top of your leg bone, in the groin area, runs up inside your body where it splits off into a muscle called the iliacus, which lines the inside of your pelvis. The other branch splits off into a muscle called the psoas major (some people also have a psoas minor), which goes up to connect to your lower back vertebrae.

Altogether this large and complex muscle allows you to lift up your legs, bend forward, and put some kick in that skate glide. If you shorten it too much by sitting a lot or if you contract and strain it with a serious athletic workout, the result is often the same. You get pain, ache, and stiffness in a lot of different areas. Janet Travell and David Simons, authors of the texts
Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual Vol 1 and 2 call it ‘The Hidden Prankster.’
The problem when dealing with this muscle is that it can be hard to release because it is housed within the core of the body--massage requires working deep in the abdominal area in most cases. The iliopsoas can also be quite difficult to stretch because the stretches are quite specific and often require balance and persistence. As well, the stretches that work are relatively unknown.

The easiest and most effective iliopsoas hip flexor stretch I’ve discovered comes from
Low Back Disorders by Stuart McGill. (The TFL hip flexor stretches are different.)
Iliopsoas Stretch:

• Stand in a scissors or stride step, with the right foot back and the left foot forward. To achieve better balance don’t stand on one ‘line,’ rather widen your stance as if you are standing on two lines that are about a foot apart.

• The key: the back foot, in this case the right, must be pointed straight forward and back. If it is pointed in or out the muscle you are trying to stretch will be disengaged and won’t be stretched.

• Next, bend your left knee slightly forward while keeping your right thigh where it is, while doing a pelvic tuck by pulling your belly button towards your spine.

• You should be feeling a stretch in your right groin and possibly lower back area. If not, readjust and retry.

• For the ultimate part of this stretch, lift your right arm out to the side as if holding up a stop sign, secure your balance and lean slightly from the waist to the left. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

• Repeat on other side.
Remember to always stretch when your muscles are warm. That way you will make great gains in regaining flexibility.

Once you get the hang of the iliopsoas stretch you’ll have an effective method to help reduce that awful nagging lower back, hip, abdominal, and thigh pain that may have been plaguing you. It’s also a great way to untorque your hips if you find one is more forward and one more back.

So forget about avoiding that long drive, don’t worry about hurting during that next broomball, hockey, or football game. Just get stretching and get at it.

And if you need more than what the stretch offers, check out
Hip Flexor (Iliopsoas) Pain Reduction Strategies.

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