Sitting – the route of all evil? Our bodies dislike it on so many levels and I treat the effects daily. Physically we know the issues but emotionally? ‘Yeah right’ you say dismissively!
It’s normal for people to come to me with a bad back. I’m used to that. But the pattern I’m seeing more and more is the one that links lower back pain to stress and anxiety. So what is happening to people now that wasn’t happening 5, 10 or 15 years ago?
The answer could be that we are all sitting more. That extra hour sitting at work each day to pay that extra bill or that extra hour sat in traffic. It’s all adding up. And more time at work means less time exercising.
Sitting, whether it be at a desk, in a car, on a horse (yes!) or for farriers shoeing (you’re in that same folded position) affects our body’s (bio) mechanics. Structural imbalances increase and consequently so does the risk of injury.
Predominantly, sitting tightens the psoas muscle which sits deep in the abdominal area and connects the spine to the thigh bones. But here’s the interesting bit ……. psoas is directly linked to adrenaline production. Tight psoas signals that you’re in danger preparing your body for flight or flight by releasing adrenaline. So what happens if you continue sitting and there’s no fight or flight, where does the extra adrenaline go? Well if no physical activity takes place you simply end up with increased levels of adrenaline circulating your body. And it’s this that increases the likelihood of becoming stressed and potentially suffering with anxiety.
So what does a tight psoas feel or look like? From a postural perspective I tend to see a forward rotated pelvis (bottom sticking out), an internally rotated leg(s) (toes turn in), leg length discrepancies (unable to get stirrups level) and knee and lower back pain.
The clients I see who seem to suffer the most with stress and anxiety caused (at least in part) by a tight psoas are the ones who work full time in an office based role but who also ride horses. So they drive to work, sit at a desk, drive to the yard, sit on a horse then drive home (you get the picture).
What I feel when I treat someone with a tight psoas is tension through the sides (tight quadratus lumborum muscle, which attaches the spine to the pelvis) and tension through the abdominal area (tight psoas). The client will immediately feel tension on palpation of these areas but are usually blissfully unaware of an issue otherwise. Loosening psoas can often be achieved in just one treatment. And clients have reported significant decreases in levels of stress and anxiety almost immediately and with lasting effect.
So if your therapist is still closed do try to do some of the leg work to fix this yourself! I have trawled through various stretches online to find the best self-help methods for a tight psoas. Personally I find that a simple half kneeling stretch (see below) combined with a side lying foam roller technique (to also target quadratus lumborum) works well for most. But as with all these methods the techniques need to be fine-tuned to the individual…..so do get in touch if you’d like more information.
And it’s never just one thing that’s needed to fix the problem. Lifestyle choices play their part too. Try sitting less with the help of a standing desk. A number of my clients are now using these with great results. You can check out the reviews on the best standing desks here https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/house-garden/furniture/best-standing-desks-a9371281.html
What are your experiences? Comment, like, share.