To travel pain free, free the iliopsoas!

It’s holiday season and that means it is time for traveling! Whether its home for Thanksgiving, a snowboard trip out west, or just down the road for a get-together, a holiday pain free is one worth celebrating!

Most people have encountered a bout of low back, hip, or leg pain after a long road trip or a plane ride.  When traveling, we may attribute it to our heavy board bag and luggage or those god-awful seats in the airplane. Ironically, the pain that is experienced in the lower back, hip, or leg may actually be coming from your front side.

A muscle called the iliopsoas connects the front side of the lumbar vertebra (the bones in the low back that make up your spine) to the femur (the thigh bone). The muscle acts to flex the abdomen down to the thigh or to lift the thigh to the abdomen. This muscle is also referred to as a hip flexor. Because of the attachment to the spine, if the muscle is overcontracted, shortened, or spasmed, pain can be felt in the low back, hip, or leg. If the iliopsoas is contracted for a prolonged period of time, it can cause the glutes to fire improperly, tilt the pelvis forward, and jam the facet joints in the spine.


To prevent the psoas from ruining your holiday, here are a few helpful tips:

1. Move around. -The most common tip to travelers is to move around as much as possible. If in a car, take frequent gas/bathroom breaks to allow you to get out of the car and move around. If in the plane, try and get up at least once during the ride. Moving around will not only stretch the iliopsoas, but increase blood flow to the lower body.

2. Stretch. -To stretch the iliopsoas, kneel on one knee with the other foot in front with knee bent. Contract glutes and gently push foward, stretching the back hip flexor. Keep back straight and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side. Be sure not to push front knee over front foot and keep a 90 degree bend in the front knee. To add additional stretch, raise arm overhead and reach away from side of stretch.

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3. Activate the glutes. See post “Glutes Are The New Core”

4. Release the iliopsoas. The easiest way to have the iliopsoas released is to have a therapist or healthcare professional do it for you. If this is not available, find a ball, slightly larger than a tennis ball. Lie face down onto the ball, supporting your body with your elbows and feet. The ball should be positioned a little to the side and below the belly button. Continuously breathe and push your body into the ball for 10-30 seconds, releasing the trigger points in the muscle. The iliopsoas trigger points are very painful, so be sure to support your body with your elbows and toes to vary the depth of the therapy.

To travel pain free, free the iliopsoas. Happy Holidays!

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